Thursday, January 27, 2005

Jedwab on the Trinity and the Statue/Lump Analogy

Joseph Jedwab writes:

I don't think you're going wrong anywhere with the statue/lump analogy you give. But I would have to look at the Rea/Brower paper again to see if better is to be found there. I have an idea of how to make their account works that uses Brentano's account of the distinction between substances and accidents.

BV: You must be reading my mind. I too have been toying with Brentano's account as explained by Roderick Chisholm as a way of interpreting the Trinity. More on this later.

But that will have to wait until later. By the way, I think, as I expect you do as well, that dialetheism (i.e. some contradictions are true) and the sortal relativity of identity thesis (i.e. it can be that a is the same F as b, but not everything true of a is true of b) are beyond the pale, but that the former is worse than the latter.

BV: I agree that both dialetheism and the sortal-relativity of identity are to be avoided if at all possible, and that the former is the worse of the two. I hope to post on both of these later.

JJ: I would put the initial problem like this. These three claims are apparently inconsistent:

(1) Every divine Person is God.
(2) There are three divine Persons.
(3) There is one God.

If we take in (1) the ‘is’ to be the is of identity and so ‘God’ to be a [logically proper] name, then (1) and (2) are inconsistent with each other and (1) and (3) entail there is at most one divine Person. If we take in (1) the ‘is’ to be the is of predication and so ‘God’ to be a [common] noun, then (1) and (2) entail there are at least three Gods and (1) and (3) entail, again, there is at most one divine Person.

BV: Very good statement of the difficulty.

BV earlier post: Suppose you have a statue S made out for some lump L of material, whether marble, bronze, clay, or whatever. How is S related to L? It seems clear that L can exist without S existing. Thus one could melt the bronze down, or re-shape the clay. In either case, the statue would cease to exist, while the quantity of matter would continue to exist. It follows that S is not identical to L. They are not identical because something is true of L that is not true of S: it is true of L that it can exist without S existing, but it is not true of S that it can exist without S existing.

Although S is not identical to L, S is not wholly distinct, or wholly diverse, from L either. This is because S cannot exist unless L exists. This suggests the following analogy: The Father is to God as the statue is to the lump of matter out of which it is sculpted. And the same goes for the other Persons. Schematically, P is to G as S to L. The Persons are like hylomorphic compounds where the hyle in question is the divine substance. Thus the Persons are not each identical to God, which would have the consequence that they are identical to one another. Nor are the persons instances of divinity which would entail tri-theism. It is rather than the persons are composed of God as of a common material substance. Thus we avoid a unitarianism in which there is no room for distinctness of Persons, and we avoid tri-theism. So far, so good.

JJ: Some think that S and L can exist without each other. L can but S cannot survive radical change of shape. S can but L cannot survive radical change of parts.

BV: It seems clear to me that L can exist without S. Take a simpler and cruder example. Let L be a lump of ground meat. I make meatball M out of it. Then I smash it into a hamburger patty P. L continues to exist while M passes out of existence. On the other hand, for M to exist without L would be for that very meatball M to have different matter -- and that is hard to 'swallow.'

Thus I am asserting one-sided detachability (something like Brentano's einseitige Abloesbarkeit): L can exist without S, but S cannot exist without L. How could a hylomorphic compound exist without the very matter that makes it the very hylomorphic compound it is?


JJ: I think that if there are statues and lumps, then S and L are identical to each other, for I don’t think there could be coinciding objects that share the same proper parts.

BV: I suppose it depends on how you individuate proper parts. I would say that S and L do not share all the same proper parts. S has head, arms, etc. let us say, while L does not. They don't share the same proper parts, they share the same matter. Isn't it clear that S and L are not identical in virtue of the fact that L exists whether or not S exists?

JJ: I don’t understand why you say that S overlaps L because S cannot exist without L. I cannot exist without God but I do not overlap God.

BV: Perhaps what I should have said is that S overlaps L because (i) S is composed of L, and (ii) S cannot exist without L.

[. . .]

BV earlier: But does the statue/lump analogy avoid the problems we faced with the water analogy? Aren’t the two analogies so closely analogous that they share the same problems? Liquid, solid, and gaseous are states of water. Similarly, a statue is a state of a lump of matter. Modalism is not avoided. If the Persons are like states, then they are not sufficiently independent. But a statue is even worse off than a state of water. Water can be in one of its states whether or not we exist. But a hunk of matter cannot be a statue unless beings like us are on the scene to interpret it as a statue. Thus my little ceramic bust of Beethoven represents Beethoven only because we take it as representing the great composer. In a world without minds, it would not represent anything. The Persons of the Trinity, however, are in no way dependent on us for their being Persons of the Trinity.

JJ: What do you mean by a state? I don’t think that a statue is a state of a lump. A statue has shape, size, and mass, but a state of a lump doesn’t have such properties.

BV: If states of H2O have shape, size, and mass -- and they do -- then why should not states of bronze, clay, etc. not have shape, size, and mass? A state is a particular formation of a lump of matter. Thus a statue is a lump of matter in a particular state. A state (as here used) is not a property. I agree that a statue is not a property of a lump of matter.

JJ: If there is a statue that a lump of matter constitutes at a time, there is an organism that a lump of matter constitutes at a time, but an organism is not a state of a lump of matter, so why think a statue is a state of a lump of matter?

BV: Can't follow this. Don't see how the second clause follows from the first.

JJ: And I don’t think that whether a statue exists depends on us to interpret it. A statue depends on us to make it. And whether a statue represents something depends on our intentions. But a statue can exist without representing anything.

BV: Here you have the makings of an excellent point. Clearly, a sculpture can exist without representing anything (as is the case with many modern (= decadent?) sculptures). So you are right if a statue is the same as a sculpture. But that is not clear. Isn't it an analytic proposition that every statue represents something? I just paid a visit to Mr Webster. He defines: "a three-dimensional representation usu. of a person, , animal, or mythical being that is produced by sculpturing, modeling, or casting." I have the OED, but it is blasted heavy and the print is tiny.

Technically, then, I was right. But Brower and Rea could simply switch to a sculpture/lump analogy.

BV earlier: Connected with this is how God could be a hylomorphic compound, or any sort of compound, given the divine simplicity which rules out all composition in God.

JJ: Chris Hughes argues that Aquinas’ doctrine of divine simplicity is not consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity. I agree but I am not sure that doctrine of divine simplicity is consistent with God have concepts of different things like the concept of a dog or a cat. So I say no great loss there. What do you mean by divine simplicity? If God has more than one state or more than one event happens to God or God performs more than one act or God has more than one property, do you say God is not simple?

BV: Good questions. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy wants we to write an article on divine simplicity, so I will be dealing with these questions soon.