Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Cerberus Analogy Once More

John DePoe writes:

Thanks for featuring my response to your Trinity query on your blog. As you typically do, I find your blog challenging and thought-provoking. Let me see if I can better understand your objection to the Cerberus analogy. You primarily object to it because the dog is not a spiritual unity. I agree, that is significantly disanalogous.

Suppose, however, that Cerebrus is not a material/physical dog. Instead, let's say Cerberus is composed entirely of an immaterial substance. In that case, couldn't Cerberus model the Trinity?

BV: Well, there is the problem of how a dog, an essentially physical being, could be an immaterial substance. But suppose, per impossibile, that Cerberus is immaterial. The trouble now is that the physical analogy is no longer physical. It is easy to imagine a dog with three heads, with one person, one unity of consciousness, for each head. It makes sense to say: three persons in one dog, C. Call them P1, P2, P3. But notice that P1 is not C, P2 is not C, P3 is not C. In the Trinity, however, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.

So I don't see how this analogy renders the doctrine of the Trinity intelligible.

Since Cerberus is one nasty dog, and I'm a runner and a former mailman, a more appealing (?) analogy might be Siamese triplets: three heads, three unities of consciousness, one body. Of course, this suffers from the same drawbacks as the Cerberus analogy.

Obviously, what I'm suggesting is that the Trinity could be "composed" (so to speak, not literally) of an immaterial substance that does not entail a fourth person. I'm not sure I see that if the Trinity is an immaterial substance, that the Trinity would need to be a fourth mind/person. If you get a chance, I would benefit from a clarification on this point.

BV: Here is another way to see the difficulty. Is God identical to the Father or not? God is tripersonal, while the Father is not. Therefore, by the Indiscernibility of Identicals (or, if you will, its contrapositive, the Discernibility of the Diverse), God is not identical to the Father.
But God is identical to the Father. For there is only one God.

The same argument can be repeated for the Son and the Holy Ghost. The upshot appears to be three contradictions:

1. God is and is not identical to the Father.
2. God is and is not identical to the Son.
3. God is and is not identical to the Holy Ghost.

Generalizing, the problem seems to be this. How could there be three numerically distinct entities, each an individual in its own right, that form one entity that is an individual in its own right? There is no problem with how three distinct individuals can form a collection, whether that be a set, or a mereological sum, or an aggregate. But surely no one will say that the unity of God is the unity of a set, or the unity of a mereological sum, or the unity of an aggregate. The unity of God is the unity of an individual, indeed, of a spiritual individual (a unity of consciousness/self-consciousness). How does this unity integrate without destroying the unities of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?