Thursday, January 20, 2005

Brandon on Reduplication and the Incarnation

I want to thank Brandon over at Siris for engaging what I said about reduplication. He quotes me as follows:

The reduplicative propositions about Sally and Bob do not boil down to contradictions. But ‘Christ as man is mortal and Christ as God is immortal’ does boil down to a contradiction. For Christ’s being a man includes his being mortal, and Christ’s being God includes his being immortal. Since Christ is both man and God, he is both mortal and immortal – which is a contradiction.

In sum, the reduplicative strategy is of no use in showing the logical tenability of the two natures doctrine. The schema is this:

S. x as F is H & x as G is not H.

(S) reduces to the contradiction x is H & x is not H if the following condition is met:

C. F-ness entails H-ness & G-ness entails non-H-ness.

The Sally and Bob examples fit the reduplicative schema (S) but do not satisfy the entailment condition (C). Thus they are DISANALOGOUS to the Christological cases which do satisfy (C).

The problem I see with this is this:

1) Being human does not entail being mortal; there is no reason to think that an immortal human is logically impossible. It is, of course, generally impossible; but the impossibility is an impossibility under normal conditions, or under most conditions, or something like that. So there is no entailment in that direction.

BV: This strikes me as a very weak response, being a merely ad hoc maneuver. Brandon is simply helping himself to (presupposing the truth of) the doctrine the coherence of which he ought to be explaining.

Suppose we consider a different example. Being human entails a capacity for suffering, just as being divine entails an incapacity for suffering. Will Brandon deny the entailment here as well and say that Christ's being human does not in his case entail a capacity for suffering? An orthodox defender of the Incarnation cannot do this since he cannot deny (consistently with orthodoxy) that Christ suffered and died on the cross. He really suffered, with a real human body, as opposed to a phantom or shadow body as the Docetists maintained.

So even if Brandon were right about being human not entailing being mortal -- which I do not grant -- the same problem can be raised for the reduplicative strategy using the opposites 'capable of suffering'/'incapable of suffering,' not to mention others.

2) Being God does not entail being immortal simply speaking, but not being subjectible to death in the respect in which it is God.

BV: What does this verbal fluff accomplish? 'Subjectible'? What does 'it' refer to? It is a necessary truth, indeed an analytically necessary truth, that anything divine is immortal.

In most contexts we can simply drop the qualification, because it doesn't do any work in most contexts. Nonetheless, it is there, and I think this is the primary point of the reduplication strategy; being God doesn't entail anything about being human, even if what is God is also human, because what being God entails is entirely under the condition in the respect in which it is God.

BV: Confused. Whether being God entails anything about being human is not the issue; the issue is whether one avoids contradiction by saying that Christ is mortal (limited in power, etc.) in respect of his being human but not these things in respect of his being divine. I have no idea what Brandon is driving at now. So I stop commenting. Reduplication, as T. V. Morris recognizes (Logic of God Incarnate, p. 44 ff.) avails nothing for the purpose of showing the logical consistency of the Incarnation doctrine. This is not to say that there is no strategy available for that purpose. Indeed, Morris tries to find other ways of defending the doctrine.