Friday, March 19, 2021

A necessary truth that explains a contingent one

Van Inwagen’s famous argument against the Principle of Sufficient Reason rests on the principle:

  1. A necessary truth cannot explain a contingent one.

For a discussion of the argument, see here.

I just found a nice little counterexample to (1).

Consider the contingent proposition, p, that it is not the case that my next ten tosses of a fair coin will be all heads, and suppose that p is true (if it is false, replace “heads” with “tails”). The explanation of this contingent truth can be given entirely in terms of necessary truths:

  1. Either it is or is not the case that I will ever engage in ten tosses of a fair coin.

  2. If it is not the case that I will, then p is true.

  3. If I will, then by the laws of probability, the probability of my next ten tosses of a fair coin being all heads is 1/210 = 1/1024, which is pretty small.

My explanation here used only necessary truths, namely the law of excluded middle, and the laws of probability as applied to a fair coin, and so if we conjoin the explanatory claims, we get a counterexample to 1.

It is, of course, a contingent question whether I will ever engage in ten tosses of a fair coin. I have never, after all, done so in the past (no real-life coin is literally fair). But my explanation does not require that contingent question to be decided.

This counterexample reminds me of Hawthorne’s work on a priori probabilistic knowledge of contingent truths.

59 comments:

SMatthewStolte said...

Have you seen this paper, “You can load a die but you can’t bias a coin”: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/4745988_You_Can_Load_a_Die_But_You_Cant_Bias_a_Coin

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

Are the laws of probability necessary truths?

Ibrahim Dagher said...

Alex,

This is a very interesting proposal. I worry, though, could there be better competing explanations? What if I proposed that the explanation for it not being the case was the initial conditions of the universe, together with the laws of nature, acting such that it was the case that in 2021 Alexander Pruss did not flip a coin and land 10 heads.

Or, (to appeal to substance dualists), someone could claim that the relevant facts that explain this event's occurring are the relevant facts about your mental state/soul (to explain your intention of flipping the coin), together with the laws of physics determining the result of the coin given the amount of force you put into the flip. The explanation for p is that you applied enough force on your flips such that, given the laws of physics, you did not land 10 heads.

Also, I worry about probability acting as a genuine explanation. Sure, 1/1024 explains in part why you did not land 10 heads, but not FULLY, right? There still needs to be some explanation of p which appeals to the relevant contingent facts of the world, it seems. Especially given that the probabilities could all be true and p could have not obtained (although I suppose this assumes explanations must be contrastive). I still think PvI is wrong though :) I just hope you can help me investigate these worries about your proposal. I have the lurking feeling there still needs to be a component of the explanation which appeals to the contingent parts of reality to explain why p obtained. Love your work Alex!

Unknown said...

Very interesting Alex! I used to think a necessary proposition could only explain a contingent one iff there was contra-causal free will.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Ibrahim:

Sure, there could be other explanations. But I don't think this affects the status of what I've given as a counterexample to (1). Principle (1) says that a necessary truth cannot explain a contingent one. It does not care whether there are or are not other explanations besides the necessary one.

As for "fully", again principle (1) says a necessary truth cannot explain a contingent one, and the PSR says that every contingent truth has an explanation. Neither thesis says anything about "fully". There are multiple things one could mean by a "full" explanation.

Walter:

I think we can take the relevant bits of probability theory as analytic consequences of "fair".

Apologetics Squared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Apologetics Squared said...

I find it quite intuitive that necessary truths explain contingent ones. I once got a point off on a Calculus exam. What's the explanation of that?
Well, I wrote that the derivative of cos(x) is sin(x). But, actually, the derivative of cos(x) is -sin(x).
That's seems like a good explanation. But the fact that I got a point off is a contingent truth and I just used a necessary truth to explain it.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I like examples like that, but the opponent will say that you gave an abbreviated explanation. The correct explanation is that you wrote "sin(x)" for the derivative of cos(x) but the derivative of cos(x) is -sin(x). And this conjunction is contingent.

Unknown said...

"The correct explanation is that you wrote "sin(x)" for the derivative of cos(x) but the derivative of cos(x) is -sin(x). And this conjunction is contingent."

But surely the contingent explanation only explains in part because of a necessary fact (the derivative of cos(x) is -sin(x)). So a necessary fact is at least an important part of the explanation here.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Yes, but I don't think anyone denies that a necessary truth is a *part* of the explanation of many contingent truths. For instance, a bunch of math facts are a part of many physics explanations.

Arath55 said...

Can you please explain to me how God is absolutely divinely simple but God’s Will is contingent and Intellect is necessary?

Arath55 said...

Can you please explain to me how God is absolutely divinely simple but God’s Will is contingent and Intellect is necessary?

Arath55 said...

Can you please explain to me how God is absolutely divinely simple but God’s Will is contingent and Intellect is necessary?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Here are my two main papers on divine simplicity:
http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/On3ProblemsOfDivineSimplicity.html
https://philpapers.org/rec/PRUOTP-2

Arath55 said...

Thank you

Walter Van den Acker said...

Arath

If God is absolutely simple then God is God's will, hence if God's will is to create X, then God is His will to create X. Hence X is necssary.
Divine simplicity combined with God's necessity entails an absolute modal collapse.

Alexander R Pruss said...

This argument is fallacious. For even if God's will is identical with the will to create X, it does not follow that the description "the will to create X" applies necessarily to God's will. I am identical with Baylor's one Polish-Canadian philosopher. But it does not follow that it is necessary that I am Baylor's one Polish-Canadian philosopher.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

As far as I know, you are not a necessary being, and you are not simple either. If you were necessary and simple, it would follow that whatever you are, you are necessarily that way.
A necessary being cannot have intrinsic contingent properties and willing X is an intrinsic property.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I agree that a necessary simple being cannot have intrinsic contingent properties. But I deny that willing X is always an intrinsic property.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

Logically prior to creation, there are no non-intrinsic properties.
And if the creation of X is the result of God's will to create X, then God's will to create x is logically prior to creation.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I guess it's the result of God's will, but not of God's will qua will to create X.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

So, God doesn't will to create X, instead He simply wills and the result can be: nothing at all or X or Y or Z or ... That means God has absolutely no control whatsoever. He literally ends up with whatever happens to exist.

Alexander R Pruss said...

What makes it be the case that he wills X is that X results.

I actually think this may be the right way to look at our own libertarian free will. See: https://philpapers.org/rec/PRUOTP-2

It's not that different from Kane's view.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

A necessary condition for LFW is that the will should be free. IOW in order for me to have meaningful LFW (and responsibility), I should be able to will different things, it doesn't suffice that my will results in different outcomes for there is no way to control the result of my will.
That is exactly the problem I pose above.

Alexander R Pruss said...

On a libertarian account of our choices, the moment of freedom is when deciding what to will. Once I will it, at that point determinism can take over. So, there is an indeterministic transition from a state that allows me to will A AND allows me to will B, to a state where I will exactly one of the two.

Either this story does or does not allow me to say that I control whether I will A or whether I will B.

Suppose that this story does not allow me to say that I control whether I will A or whether I will B. Then libertarian freedom is incoherent. For without control there is no freedom.

Suppose that this story does allow me to say that I control whether I will A or whether I will B. Now, in our case "willing A" is an intermediate step between the deliberation and the outcome. I deliberate → I will A → A happens (say, an arm goes up). But imagine that I had I was so constructed that there was no "I will A" middleman: I deliberate → A happens. If in the ordinary case, I can control whether as a result of the deliberation I will A or I will B, in this case, I would be able to control whether as a result of the deliberation A happens or B happens. And God is a bit like that, except that in God's case, there is such a thing as willing A, but it's partly constituted by A's happening.

In other words, the story about God makes sense iff libertarian free will is consistent. Of courses you may think it's not consistent.

Wesley C. said...

I wonder if accepting a formal distinction between God's attributes and His essence would solve at least some of the objections here.

Now the nature of a formal distinction is debated - some say it's a middle distinction between real and virtual / logical / notional, while others say it's a minor form of real distinction - but what everyone agrees is that if a formal distinction holds then God's attributes aren't identical to each other in God. God's justice and mercy and will and intellect aren't ontologically the same even in God, and neither are they the same as God's essence. So it's just wrong to identify God's will to create X with God's very essence, as they are distinct realities due to having distinct definitions.

Of course, divine simplicity still entails that God's attributes aren't parts and so aren't existentially separable from each other - God's love and wisdom, though distinct and not identical, can't even in principle be separated from God - so I guess one could still object that though God's will to create X is distinct from God's essence, they are still inseparable and still imply the objection.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

I am accepting for the sake of the argument that LFW is coherent, so let's say that I do control whether I will A. The problem is that the deliberation that leads me to will A is different from the deliberation that leads me to will B.
If my deliberation is exactly the same, then there is no way that I control the outcome of this deliberation.
Now, a consistent application of your radical view on Divine Simplicity also entails that God is identical to His deliberation(s), hence God cannot be in control of His will even if LFW makes sense.

Wesley

That would be a solution, but I don't think Alex accepts this formal distinction. I am sure Edward Feser, e.g. does not accept it.

Wesley C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arath55 said...

This seems like a good point.

What do you have to say about this Dr. Pruss?

Arath55 said...

This seems like a good point.

What do you have to say about this Dr. Pruss?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Walter:

The deliberation cannot be different in the two cases. For if the deliberation were different, that difference would either be explained by my free choice or not. If it is not explained by my free choice, then I am not responsible for the difference in the two deliberations, and hence I am not responsible for the difference in the actions coming from the two deliberations. But if the difference between the two deliberations is explained by my free choice, then prior to that free choice there must be another deliberation, and so we launch an infinite regress.

If LFW is coherent, it should be possible to have a case of a choice where everything is deterministic except the choice itself. Thus, the divergence between the worlds where I choose A and where I choose B must lie at one moment. Prior to the moment of divergence, everything is the same. And I am responsible for the divergence. So if LFW is coherent, it is possible to be responsible for a divergence even though in both divergent worlds the state that leads to the divergence is exactly the same.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

In that case, what role does deliberation play?
What explains my "choice" of A? If it is not explained by my deliberation, then I am not responsible for my "choice".
The "choice" would be the same, whether I deliberate or not.
Anyway, even if I grant that your account is coherent and that the divergence lies at one moment it is still a fact that this "moment" is intrinsic to the agent, because otherwise, the agent cannot be responsible . Hence, in the case of God, "the moment" of divergence is identical to God, which means that the necessary simple God is identical to "choice A" in w1 and to "choice B" in w2.

And it becomes completely absurd because you have just identified stages in God. A deterministic stage followed (at least logically) by an indeterministic 'moment of choice" in an immutable being.

Wesley C. said...

Alex,


Do you think that a formal distinction between God's will and His essence could be helpful in resolving this type of objection? That is, God's essence and His will are distinct realities in God or aspects of God which have different definitions and so aren't identical or ontologically the same thing - and divine simplicity only requires that God's aspects not be existentially separable from each other like parts of a whole.

Dominik Kowalski said...

The answer by Steven Nemes is the rejection of the Difference Principle. In fact a thorough application of the PSR demands that. The same state can have different effects. So God's willing of his own essence entails the possible actualization of the whole of the modal order. This world wasn't intended in the univocal sense where divine intention is comparable to the human.

The rejection of the DP is entailed by everyone who affirms either LFW or Indeterministic causation.

And also it is false that prior to creation there is nothing extrinsic to God. Take particular ideas for example, of a dog, and water. It is false thst DDS affirms that those ideas are essentially the same or reducible to one another. Those ideas have existence in common, and this is the divine essence. Once we talk about particular ideas we already left the absolute foundational ontological level, for ideas are particularizing possibilities which are limiting existence. Thus once we talk about those particular ideas, we aren't concerned with God himself anymore. Ideas or abstract objects can't not exist, and yet they don't possess aseity and are thus dependent. It is comparable to Plotinus view of the Intellect, the Worldsoul and the One.

Dominik Kowalski said...

Furthermore I want to point to the PSR outlined by Pruss and Rasmussen in "Necessary Existence" in the chapter on the argument from contingency. "Necessarily if C obtains it is explained by N".

This very much fits into what I outlined and what I regard God's role as. First of all a possible world is self-determining, but the possibilities are grounded within N. Second it puts more freedom into C, for the explanatory role of N might be prior, nonetheless it is not necessitating, though it might be, e.g. as in the case of a free choice. This is all what is needed for N is merely that what provides the freedom here, and not necessitates the outcome. It should be easy to see how this account in combination with what I pointed to above avoids the problems

Other avenues is accepting that God necessarily had to create *something*, only the *what* was up to him. Norman Kretzmann did so notoriously. The ideas above are adequately sketched out in O'Connor "Simplicity and Creation". The consequence is just that we have to drop all pretense that God's mental act and ours are even remotely similar. That shouldn't be surprising though. The rejection of those ideas are dependent upon the intuition that there has to be univocity, something which I reject vehemently, again given the fact that a thorough application of the PSR forbids complexity in the absolute fundamental level, which our cognitive actions possess.

Wesley C. said...

@Dominik,

1) Could you expand a bit on how exactly PSR demands a rejection of a universal DP? That sounds like an interesting conclusion.

2) I still have to ask - would a formal distinction help out even more in solving objections like this? Because if God's will and His essence aren't identical and are different items in God, then that right there seems to stop the problem - one could also say that just as the soul isn't defined by the choices the will makes (the will being formally distinct from the soul), so the same goes for God. So it seems that even if one wants to say that God willed the world in an univocal sense, that right there seems to imply a formal distinction between God's attributes since univocal concepts are distinct from each other.

What do you think?

3) How would the idea that the will is a self-mover or self-determining cause fit in with that? That is, the will is self-determined which is a perfectly coherent type of causality - while a ball being hit with another ball is other-determined, the will is self-determined which accounts for its contingency and non-necessity. And asking for anything beyond the will as to why it moved itself is like asking an other-determined causal chain why it's other-determined, which is nonsense.

4) What exactly does it mean to say that ideas are extrinsic to God or that they aren't identical to each other? Because that sounds like a formal distinction there - in fact, the non-identity of ideas in God and their own unique ratios is exactly what Scotus uses to support the idea they are formally distinct in God and from God.

Wesley C. said...

@Dominik,

About univocity - I think that whether one accepts only analogy about God or adds univocity to it, a solution to the problem necessarily opens up that is unique to each view.

For if we predicate attributes of God univocally, then the concepts are necessarily distinct from each other, which implies a formal distinction between them. Which then means that God's essence is NOT the same item as His intellect or His will, and neither are the rest of His attributes identical to each other. So even if God causes in a sense univocal to created causality, this can't imply modal collapse because God's act of creating simply isn't the same thing as His essence. One example to see how this is the case would be to take the soul as formally distinct from the intellect and will, which are also formally distinct from each other - and just as the soul isn't defined by the choices of the will or determined to them, neither is God's essence defined by the acts of His will.

And if we instead predicate attributes of God only analogously, then the concepts in God are necessarily different though similar. In fact, in God they are all one item and are just the many different ways of looking at God, so when we say that God's essence is identical to God's act of creation we can't be making the identity at the univocal level - we aren't saying God is literally the act of creation because that would be to understand act of creation univocally. So this means act of creation in God refers to something different than what it usually means when it's applied creatures - different but analogically related.

So either way, a solution seems to be implied by the very positions themselves.


Dominik Kowalski said...

Wesley,

1) we can motivate this claim through two avenues. First of all it must be clear that the necessary being must be essentially the same across all possible worlds. And the explanatory scope is about the relation of the necessary with the contingent.

Since we're here in a mere comment thread I'll limit myself and refer to O'Connors "Theism and Ultimate Explanation". Without assuming that properties like omniscience or omnipotence are convertible into something that is both (though I absolutely believe that, an analysis of what necessary existence means leads us to that), we can deduce from necessary existence that those kinds of attributes are entailed given the mode of being and power over the whole modal landscape. The entailment presupposes the absolute fundamentality and priority of the mode of being though. Hence the effect must be coming from an essentially unchanging cause.

Now this wasn't a good explanation for now, it merely gives reasons why DDS adherents should reject the principle. But that's no good. So let's jump on to possible worlds, because here already the idea that differing possible worlds can be explained by the same necessary entity already *presupposes* the falsehood of DP. On pain of a vicious explanatory circle there can't be a necessary entity that has essential difference for every possible worlds, for those differences would be contingent upon the world. God's intrinsic accidental properties given a possible world would be explained by those contingent facts, but those fact would be in need of explanation, either creating a vicious circle or leading us once again to reject DP. The second reason is that the possible worlds are contingent per definition, but making them dependent upon, say, a contingent causal act leaves open the question as to how this act is related to the necessary and unchanging essence.

So we are led to two conclusions: if the PSR is true we have a necessary being with an unchanging essence. Given that we apply the PSR to contingent facts whose obtaining isn't necessary, we are already presupposing the falsehood of the DP. And an affirmation of the DP would in turn ultimately entail the affirmation of brute facts. Since the PSR and the rejection of brute facts are the most important assumptions in my own ontology, I reject the DP.

Forgive me for not formalizing, but I hope the basic idea is clear. If there are contingent facts and the necessary being must be the same among possible worlds in order to explain the contingent modal landscape, then we must affirm the multiplicity of effects through identical causes, because every attempt to circumvent this and affirm a specific, contrastive explanation within the necessary entity for a contingent world will make the link between the contingent explanation and the necessary essence brute.

Dominik Kowalski said...

2) I think it does, as long as no real complexity is introduced. Remember that DDS was argued for in order to preserve a wholly intelligible reality. If the necessary entity has two really distinct parts, will and essence without an asymmetrical relation that preserves a simple that just *is* his being, then we are left with a relation in need of explanation. Even if properties such as those were mutually entailing. If omnipotence, omniscience and all-goodness were mutually entailing then, to use O'Connor's terminology, there "being" in the first place were left unexplained, violating the PSR.

To express myself clearer let me take Joshua Rasmussen as an example, since he conceived of God's attributes as being united in perfection. I think this is pretty scotistic in nature and I can accept that as preserving the PSR, since there is no complexity at the most fundamental level.

So in order to give an adequate evaluation I need to know more about how the formal distinction is applied here. I thought of it as being pretty similar to what Rasmussen and O'Connor wrote. But there are disagreements and I'm in no position to rule formal distinctions out. Indeed I think they are helpful in conceiving of divine ideas and I believe I made use of that.

3) Well I'm no expert on formal distinctions, I believe even among Scotists it's controversial what they are supposed to be. Furthermore since I don't believe God to be a being that reasons, intends, observes or believes in any way we do, but in the most direct way namely by causing/creating, talk of willing is a hard saying anyway. We know that he can't be moved by something more fundamental, since the necessary being is the ultimate. But anything further? Pruss mused in his past work what God could be "attracted" by in regards as to what to create.

In regards to my rejection of the DP, the fact that God can't be made to create would suffice for free will, everything would directly diffuse out of his nature. I think there is a further argument to be made from the fact that there is an infinite amount of different effects, but given that the divine mind operates so differently, I stay with the "no outside force" for now. I follow Brian Davies in that regard. I concede that this is unsatisfying for those attracted to univocity, but I'm pushed in that direction. Further contemplation on that topic might change my position.

Dominik Kowalski said...

4) This is a position I developed myself, meaning that I didn't consciously derive it from other sources, though of course I was inspired. The idea is that every idea exists, they are contemplated in a single act by the same mind. That means that those ideas have their existence/contemplation in common. And that what they have in common/are dependent upon is that what is the divine essence itself. The content of the ideas however are of course not identical, and I don't believe anyone ever made that statement. The content can be said to be an abstract object or a universal or, in the case of Scotus, haeccities. But the content itself isn't the divine essence, once we are thinking about the content we already left the most fundamental layer of reality, since the content is already limiting the essence. That's what I mean when I say they are extrinsic. They necessarily exist in the sense they they designate everything that possibly exists and God necessarily contemplates them. But they aren't the divine essence, they merely share the roots and are themselves limitations of said essence. Whether those abstractions, concepts, universals or haeccities are instantiated or contemplated by created creatures have no effect upon the essence upon which they are dependent. This is what I mean with saying they are extrinsic.

Dominik Kowalski said...

Wesley (2nd comment),

if I read your comment correctly, then you are trying to solve the problem by rejecting DDS. While I also believe that God's act of creation isn't the same as his essence, because his act is just what is created, trying to put that intrinsically into God would cause the exact problem the PSR and rejection of DP is introduced to solve, namely a brute connection between contingent act and necessary essence.

I agree however with the following paragraph and think our positions are similar.

Wesley C. said...

@Dominik,

1) a) Interesting analysis! Some of this sounds similar to the point made by James Chastek that the DP presupposes that a purely actual cause can't exist, which might be begging the question: https://thomism.wordpress.com/2019/08/18/divine-simplicity-3-simplicity-and-free-will/

He points out: "Consider the following premise: G = What changes another need not change itself."

"You might become convinced of G because your mind wandered off to considering knowledge, which involves objects actualizing a cognitive power without themselves changing or coming to be. Or maybe you wandered off to considering things loved, which can cause love in others without having to become something else. Or maybe you thought about relations, which allow for Socrates to be shorter than Plato not because Socrates changed by shrinking but because Plato changed by growing. Or maybe you were considering what Aristotle takes to be the paradigm case of efficient causality – giving advice – the whole idea of which is that the one who gets it should change while the one who gives it doesn’t need to."

"Now consider the second sentence in Vallicella’s (2): Had God created no universe, then his power to create would have gone unexercised."

"Presumably, Vallicella thought this was just axiomatic or obvious, though this is logically equivalent to taking G as self-evidently false, and that’s just a mistake. More to the point, the proof by which one establishes the existence of purus actus ( not its simplicity, but its existence ) requires that there be something that causes change in another without changing itself. This is precisely what “purus actus” means. “Pure” is the opposite of “mixed” and a mixed act is an actualizer that is itself actualized or a changer that is itself changed."

"Put another way, the supposed dilemma between simplicity and freedom is not on objection to divine simplicity, but an assertion that God’s existence is self-evidently false, at least as this existence is understood by the defenders of divine simplicity. I don’t mean this in the obvious sense that if you affirm “God is not simple” you also affirm “no simple God exists”, but rather in the sense that the objection against divine simplicity is downstream from an unexamined assumption that a purus actus or unmoved mover or uncreated creator is impossible..."


b) In other words, the PSR implies the falsity of the DP? Because the common complaint is that PSR might also imply necessitarianism or modal collapse - so if one can show that the PSR actually implies the opposite, then this would mean the only coherent conclusion for anyone who accepts PSR is theism without modal collapse.


2) a) Yeah, a formal distinction isn't the same as a real distinction. Divine simplicity basically means that God isn't composed of His attributes - and composition means the parts are existentially separable, meaning at least one can exist without the other in principle. So what a real distinction between things means is that they are in principle existentially separable from each other, at least by divine power.

To give a quick example of a formal distinction - Scotus would say that the soul has intellect and will, but they are only formally distinct from the soul and each other, meaning they aren't existentially separable even in principle; it's incoherent to have intellect without will, or without soul. So the distinction between them implies no composition in the soul.

...continued...

Wesley C. said...

2) a) The same would apply to God's attributes - they aren't identical to each other but are different realities, even though they aren't separable either. Here's how Michael Sullivan put it once: http://lyfaber.blogspot.com/2010/02/divine-simplicity-and-formal_20.html


"By now the application of the formal distinction to the problem of divine simplicity should be obvious. With our third and middle distinction to show the way we can see how there can be a plurality in God without there being a true multiplicity. The infinity of ideas within God is a real infinity of formalities, without there being an infinity of separate forms in God. God’s free will and His necessary knowledge are not identical, they indicate a real difference; to the precise degree that to will and to know are different they indicate two formalities in God, and yet each is inseparable from the simple actuality of God’s infinite Being."

"This means that, for instance, wisdom and love are not distinct in God only because we think of them as distinct. There is a formal distinction between them even if there were no creatures to think of it... What it means is that the distinction between wisdom and love in God doesn't depend on God's thinking of them as distinct, any more than on my thinking of them that way. They just are distinct."

"This is part and parcel of Scotus' whole univocity approach. Scotus insists that knowledge does not become not-knowledge just because it exists in God. The fact that wisdom and love in God are infinite and therefore coincide in a non-compositional way does not remove their wisdom-character and love-character. Take what wisdom is in itself, not specifying whether you mean created or uncreated wisdom, wisdom as a finite quality or as an infinite being. Either way what "wisdom" is is something specific, and it's not the same thing as "love". Now take "wisdom" and "love" and make them both infinite. As divine attributes they are not accidents or compositional elements, but are really identical with God. But it remains the case that wisdom =/= love ! We can see that this is the case because they do not have identical domains: God's wisdom extends to more things than his love does. And God's wisdom is enough for God to know something, but not enough for that thing to exist, since God has to will something as well as know it if it is to exist."

"And all this is "before" God thinks of them, or we do, understanding "before" in terms of logical, not temporal, priority. In other words he and we think of them as distinct because they are distinct, not vice versa. This is the essence of the formal distinction."



From this a comparison could be made to the soul - the soul can't be separated from its intellect or will, yet the choices the will makes don't define the soul absolutely speaking in itself, and the soul is still distinct from the will's operations. In fact, if we take the will to be self-determining, we'd have the soul being really identical to the will and yet choosing contingently - the will by nature chooses contingently.

So something similar could be said of God - His will by nature is contingently self-determining, which is also why Scotus calls God the first contingent cause in a sense IIRC. His essence isn't separable from the will, and they are really identical just like the soul is really identical to the will, yet without modal collapse of the essence into the acts of the will.

b) Would you clarify a bit more why even if omnipotence, omniscience and all-goodness were mutually entailing as really distinct parts, they'd still need explanation of why they have being in the first place? Because if the essence is necessary, and necessarily entails the other attributes, then that seems to answer the question by itself.

...continued...

Wesley C. said...

4) I don't think it's necessary to view the ideas as just limitations of essence, since creatures aren't just failures to fully be the divine essence due to their finitude - rather, their being is truly positive though finite. Finitude isn't of their essence as positive beings, though it is a mode of being.

Also, if the ideas are in a sense external to the essence, this seems to vitiate the potential complaint some would have that saying the ideas reflect God would make created beings just copies of God or diminishes creation because of this - so if we were to compare creation to the divine essence, we'd see created things as just reminders of God. On the other hand, if the ideas aren't the divine essence but are in some sense external to it, this opens up the possibility of attributing an inherent sort of uniqueness to them since they are distinct from the essence.

In fact, one could say that created things are both reflections of God insofar as the ideas are rooted in God, and that they are also unique in themselves for other reasons, perhaps since God is uniqueness itself which means created beings must be unique as well, and reflecting uniqueness itself doesn't lead to such worries. Or that God isn't some static essence and so reflecting the infinite doesn't diminish uniqueness at all. Or that this is good, and God is goodness, so God's nature gives the ideas both a resemblance to Himself which is good, and uniqueness as well.

What do you think?


5) As for putting the act intrinsically into God, I don't think that would necessarily cause a brute connection between contingent act and necessary essence - remember the example of the soul where the will is formally distinct from the soul yet not separable, and where the will by definition is a self-determining contingent cause. The connection between the will's act and the soul isn't a brute fact, and neither does it imply the soul necessarily chooses what the will decides just because they are inseparable.

In God's case, the essence and will would exist necessarily and be inseparable, yet I don't think making them necessary would remove the coontingency or make it brute - if the will and its operation are distinct from the essence by definition, and the definition of will is contingent self-determination, then this means God's will can contingently cause things without implying either modal collapse nor brute relations.

6) About analogy of being - one last objection I could think of was that even if we apply causality or act of creation to God analogically so that it's not univocal and they are actually the same thing and so a different thing in God, the act of creation would still be intrinsic to God.

That is, even if we attribute love or wisdom to God analogically, this still means something we know of love or wisdom is preserved through the analogy in God, and being intrinsic is one of those things. And act of creation is intrinsic since causality is partially internal to agents with respect to the origins in the power of the agent, so even if it's analogical the very concept of acting is intrinsic to whatever agent it is attributed since agents act, and that intrinsicality must be preserved just as it's preserved for the other attributes. And since analogy still has some similarity to the univocal understanding, this means that even act of creation in God has some similarity to how we understand it even if it's importantly different as well.

So it seems we could only say God can't coherently act or cause in any way since it implies necessity of creation. What do you think?

Walter Van den Acker said...

Well, this is getting awfully long for a comment sections, so this will be my final comment on this matter.
I seems to me that either God is in control of what He creates or He isn't.
If He is in control, that is, if He wills that X exists and the result is X and not Y, then X (and not Y) is at least partially intrinsic to God. Hence, is DDS is true, God is identical to his will which at least partially contains X (and not Y). And that means that in w1 God is identical to His will to create X and in w2 He is identical to His will to create Y, which means god is contingent.
The only way out IMO, is to deny that God is in control of what he creates. Then, in theory, their could be some kind of undifferentiated will that can, by pure random chance, lead to nothing, X, Y or.... This seems to be what Dominik is suggesting.
Now, this looks more like deism to me. And its hard to see why this God has to be personal. In that case, his personality seems redundant.

Dominik Kowalski said...

Wesley,

1) a) that's a good quote, though I personally don't like the charge of question-begging. Chastek shows though that the argument can be rebutted. Though I admire Vallicella greatly and think he's the foremost expert to ask when it comes to existence, I reject his discussion on DDS. In his past posts he at the very least seemed to prefer to go mysterian rather than discuss the extrinsic account.

b) true, it's a common complaint, but Pruss in particular, but also Koons', Rasmussen, Feser and Vallicella have done tremendous work in that area. Adherents of LFW can't defend it since we have contingent, self-explaining facts. In general in order to avoid the van Inwagen-objection from necessitarianism you need an explanatory principle that isn't contrastive, meaning the explanans mustn't entail the explanandum.

Koons and Pruss in their paper "Skepticism and the PSR" have actually worked out a PSR that bridges the gap problem all by itself. Whether this specific formulation is true is one thing. But it's sufficient to show that there is a clear divide and a frontier until which a naturalist can accept a PSR and after which it entails theism. All Limits being explained is an example of the latter. A further one would be an explanation for every composed object.

So yes, I agree with your conclusion in that paragraph.

Dominik Kowalski said...

2) a) Thank you for the quote. I'm not sure if that provides an avenue for a different answer than I or the Thomist gives though. It seems similar to what O'Connor and Rasmussen say about God, for those attributes are unified in a more fundamental reality from which they are derived.

But I have trouble seeing how that gives further arguments though, to me it looks like in order to avoid brute facts the rejection of DP is still required. For where would you locate the divine act? You and I seem to locate it extrinsically, in the sense that it is nothing that differs from God's essence other than in effect. Would you disagree with that? I don't think I can remember any specific Scotistic answer being given about the divine will when the question was posed in the Scotism Discussion Group.

b) take a regular essence, say an electron. Now, for the sake of argument, assume that once a specific property p is instantiated, necessarily, q and r are instantiated as well. This gives us the explanation for the instantiation of p, q and r in conjunction, if at least one of the properties is instantiated. This doesn't answer the question though why any of the properties were instantiated in the first place.

Now you're quite right that if the necessary essence is entailing those propertiesproperties, then the question is answered. But the essence is only necessary in virtue of having necessary existence (don't like the language, existence isn't a property, not even an essential one). There's an asymmetry here. Omni-attributes or "perfection", pace Craig, can't entail necessary existence, for the entailing would require for those attributes to exist prior ontologically prior to its mode of existence, a contradiction. Hence God, by just *being* necessary existence possesses the other attributes since they are entailed by the underlying mode of being, not the other way around. So there is a deeper explanation for all those derived attributes and that is them being an outflow of the underlying mode of being. Existence always has priority. To quote J. P. Moreland, existence is not a property, it's the having of properties.

Dominik Kowalski said...

4) (forgot 3) didn't you)

That's true, but it isn't what I meant to express with that statement. But the divine essence, which is full actuality gives limited actuality in order to create. Creatures just are limited actuality, hence the language of the essence or "form" being a limiting factor.

I'm not quite sure what the worries exactly are. I don't see how humanity or a world being a divine idea diminishes it at all. And yes the content of the ideas must be unique, there isn't any sense to be made of several universals for humanity for example.

I must admit that I have a hard time understanding the points. Perhaps you should formulate them out.

But to help understanding, the ideas have existence in common, right? This is what unites every idea. What they have in common, existence, just *is* God. This is the most fundamental ontological level. The ideas themselves are composed though, of existence and content. Thus when we are focusing on the content of a particular idea, say the universal of doghood or a number, we aren't at the most fundamental level anymore. In that sense they are extrinsic, though of course they aren't extrinsic concreta like we are. I conceive of those ideas as all the possibilities in which existence can be limited in order to create what is extrinsic and concrete. I limit myself here and won't formulate that out any further, but I think you understand the basic idea.

5) I don't think that solves the problem, for the reasons I outlined above. For even if will and essence are distinct we need an intelligible connection. And if the former differs in different possible worlds, as the DP requires, then we are left with brute differences. Referring to self-explanation introduces an unneeded intermediary. I don't see that it is required. And it being distinct doesn't avoid the underlying problem with explanatory links.

Also, real distinction doesn't mean separability. The essence is really distinct from its existence, but they aren't separable.

6) I deny that the creation of a particular act is an intrinsic act. Necessarily God wills his own essence. This is the act that is absolutely identical across all possible worlds. Given the rejection of the DP though, the effects differ. And those are extrinsic. Whether there is a univocity, analogy or equivocation about willing is actually irrelevant to that specific objection.

This rejection of the DP is what preserves contingency and the possibility of agents with LFW.

Acting is an intrinsic action, I don't deny that. And I certainly don't believe God to be static. But since God acts upon himself the objection can be avoided, because the effects aren't intrinsic, for God as a purely actual and unchanging being, they can't be.

For the objection to go through the DP is required, because the origin of action being intrinsic doesn't equate to the effects being that as well.

This is at least how I understand your worries, perhaps you have a different way of formulating it.

Dominik Kowalski said...

Walter,

deism means for creation to exist possibly independent. This doesn't follow though from what I wrote. That's a minor point though.

I don't know if it's by pure random chance which effects follow, but let's concede that. It can at least be finally appreciated that God is wholly other. It's not for nothing that historically speaking among the great theologians negative theology was consensus.

With our own cognitive acts in mind it's hard to see overlap of course, but our mental acts are complex and composed and there is no good reason that a higher or the highest form of mentality would have to resemble ours. Brian Davies, whom I already mentioned and who is one of my greatest influences, is quite clear about that as well. There is no such thing as reasoning in God. At least not in any form that has resemblance to how we do it.

But the second paragraph actually sums up my points quite well, though it can be obviously expanded to every conception of God or ultimate explanation. If the DP is accepted every kind of fundamental explanation must be specific to a possible world and thus can't be necessary. This of course violates the PSR as it leaves us with a contingent ultimate explanation. And this is what compells me, and presumably Pruss or Nemes, to reject the whole setup, namely the DP.

But your formulation is quite succinct, so I'll just be so daring and gonna steal it for future reference.

One thing to close this out though is that I merely described my own solution and different simplicity theorists can offer different accounts. The Platonists for example, especially Plotinus affirm that although the One (the absolute fundamental unity) necessarily emanates the Intellect and the Worldsoul (the Good is necessarily diffusive, perhaps you have heard that before), it itself transcends the Intellect. That is another avenue to solve the problem. Other traditions have further paths, but I'll let them talk for themselves, as I don't want to talk for traditions I'm insufficiently familiar with.

Wesley C. said...

@Dominik,


2a) Well, the major difference between this and the Thomistic answer is that Thomists usually don't believe in the formal distinction - God doesn't actually have distinct items or realities in Him and it is all just one attribute that's none of the names we univocally predicate of Him. So in God wisdom and love are actually one and the same reality, not distinct formalities like for Scotus.

As for where the divine act would be put - the example I use of the will being formally distinct from the soul in us and how this is similar to the Will being formally distinct from Essence in God doesn't come from someone actually using it, but it's implied by other things I've read.

2b) Existence may not be a property, but we can still say it's an internal principle - for example, if existence weren't intrinsic to things we'd be nominalists who believe things are illusory. It's usually related to how we speak of things possessing existence or having being - not in the same way a property is had, but analogously.

4) The worry is essentially that if the divine ideas are just the ways God can be reflected, that this then diminishes created beings since they are just bad copies of God.

5) Wouldn't self-explanation remove the brute differences in the will in that case? And that's even if there are internal differences to the will - one could just as well say that the will by its nature isn't made different by the choices it makes.

So that rejects the DP - though in one sense the will might be different in the trivial sense of self-moving to a different choice. But that final cause doesn't define the will.

As for real distinction - that might be how some Thomists understand it, but Scotists define it as necessarily including separability.

6) Well the effects might differ, but if those effects are brought about by an act of will of creation distinct from the effects, then those might need to be intrinsic to God.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Walter:

I think of deliberation as the process where one identifies all the reasons for the different options available---and then one chooses, based on the reasons.

One relevant difference between God and us is that in us, there is an internal result of the deliberation that is then a cause of the external result--we might call this internal result "the intention to A" or "the will to A"--while in the case of God there is only the deliberation and the external result. But just as we are responsible for the intention-to-A even though it comes indeterministically from a deliberation that would be the same even if it were to result in intention-to-B, so God is responsible for the external result (A, say) even though it comes indeterministically from a deliberation that would be the same even if it were to result in B.

Dominik Kowalski said...

Wesley,

2a) I don't think that this is actually how Thomists frame it, but since I'm not interested in defending particular schools, I won't press that further.

As for the second paragraph, my questioning shouldn't be seen as a rejection. Indeed in some interpretations what Thomists describe as a real distinction is quite similar to what Scotists regard as a formal distinction. I can't comment any further on how the formal distinction might be used for a different way to account for divine freedom, for I don't know the literature we'll enough.

2b) Sure, Vallicella provided a good statement. Existence belongs to individuals without being a property of them.

4) I don't know how to comment on that. I also don't know where the idea comes from that we thereby are just bad copies.

5) A free choice is a personal explanation, thus given the same preconditions choosing x over you for reason z is a sufficient explanation. The free choice itself though is always for a reason.

But anyway, this isn't a discussion about how free will operates, but it's uncontroversial to assume that the act needs an intelligible connection to the underlying substance. Otherwise it's just a brute event. And if it's posterior to the substance, then it is conceded that the same conditions can cause different outcomes which is just to concede my argument that the DP is false.

6) And this is exactly what I leverage my argument from the PSR against. Given the truth of the PSR the idea that there is intrinsic contingency must be rejected, for it would make the ultimate explanation contingent. This isn't just an argument to defend divine simplicity, it's an argument that must be conceded for every other kind of ultimate explanation as well. I accept that the same essence can cause different wills, but even with the formal distinction at hand that just concedes the falsehood of DP. I don't see what explanatory role the formal distinction is supposed to play, in this particular scenario it seems superfluous. The only reason why I see the objector being willing to accept 6) would be because it's the way it works if we will something. I see it as a huge mistake though to just make an universalization just because that is how it works within us. It's exactly *because* our mental workings are constituted the way they are that they can't be metaphysically ultimate but require a deeper explanation. Furthermore, as I argued, the intuition underlying the objection is in conflict with the PSR. Plus willing is a derivative act, so it can't be an attribute or a part of God that is on par with e.g. his power. So even if I concede that the willing can't be identified with the effects, it's nonetheless true that the willing can't be within the absolute fundamental ontological level. And that just, once again, concedes the falsehood of DP

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

There is no possible control in the scenario you suggest.

Wesley C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wesley C. said...

@Dominik, 5) Could you explain how if the act of will is posterior to the substance - either in us or in God in the sense of being distinct from His essence - that this implies a rejection of DP?

6) One more argument is that when we say that God causes the world, we apply causes to God in an intrinsic manner. But if causation isn't intrinsic to God, then it would be incorrect to say God causes the world.

So God doesn't cause the world in any way, since you can't connect causes to God as it would be internal. What do you think?

Arath55 said...

St John of Damascus says there is no deliberation. Deliberation between choices requires time. God is timeless. He does not deliberate. He choses to do what is fitting

Arath55 said...

St John of Damascus says there is no deliberation. Deliberation between choices requires time. God is timeless. He does not deliberate. He choses to do what is fitting

swaggerswaggmann said...

It seems to me that all is simply " necessarily, a tossed coin fall on head or tail"

But this seems to prove that a mechanical random event is indistinguishable from a free will act, as both have a "necessary" status.

Alexander R Pruss said...

God is timeless. But deliberation is the action-directed contemplation of the options and the reasons for them. God in his omniscience eternally contemplates all things.