Friday, January 28, 2005

More on the Brower/Rea Analogy

Matthew Mullins e-mails:

I wondered when you'd get around to the Lump/Statue analogy. I wrote a seminar paper on Rea/Brower's account and had the opportunity to correspond with Rea on the topic. I asked about the similarity between the water analogy, which they think fails, and the lump/statue. I've got a lot more to say and I'll try to post it at Prosblogion in the next couple of days. What follows is part of the exchange with Rea.

MM: In the first part of the paper you highlight two common analogies (water & egg) that tend to lead into heresies. Of the water analogy you say that if a person is to think of "liquid, vapor, and ice as three manifestations of a single substance, water; thus to say that the Persons of God are like them is to fall into modalism." I take it that part of the problem here is that the three cannot be manifested at the same time, so the analogy breaks down. However, there seems to be a strong analogy between this and the lump/statue account.

BV: I agree.

Namely that water and ice are significantly like the lump and statue. The cube of ice is numerically identical with the water, but differs in its modal properties.

BV: You might want to avoid the phrase 'modal properties' since that conjures up the notions of necessity and possibility which are not in play just at the moment. Of course, you mean 'modal' in the sense of mode or accident.

Rea: Right, I think that in the water analogy, part of the problem is that liquid, vapor, and ice can't all be manifested at the same time.

BV: Right, despite the triple point of water. See here.

But there's this problem as well: Consider an ice cube. Now, consider the following items: the cube of ice, the quantity (or portion, or mass) of ice that constitutes the cube, and the quantity (portion, or mass) of H2O that constitutes the cube. Plausibly, that the quantity of ice is identical to the quantity of H2O but distinct from the cube. And if that same quantity became liquid and then vapor, you might say that all the while we've had just one quantity of H2O (in 3 different forms--liquid, vapor, and ice), and then various other things (a puddle, a cloud, and a cube) constituted by it.

And this, applied to the Trinity, sounds modalistic (since the Persons, I think, will be analogous to the three quantities, rather than to the puddle, the cloud, and the cube). Of course, you could insist that the persons are instead analogous to the puddle, the cloud, and the cube; but if so, then you're moving more in the direction of our lump/statue analogy.

BV: Interesting. Rea is distinguishing among H2O, its three states (liquid, solid, gaseous), and three things (puddle, cube, cloud) that are each constituted by H2 in the three states respectively. Thus the water analogy is really two analogies:

A1: The Persons are to God as solid-water, liquid-water, and water-vapor are to H2O. This suggests the heresy of Modalism.

A2: The Persons are to God as puddle, cube, and cloud are to H2O. Rea is suggesting that this is close to the lump/statue analogy and does not imply modalism.

But is A2 close to the lump/statue analogy? A lump of bronze, say, is in the solid state. It is har to make a statue out of a liquid of a gas {grin}. Not that it cannot be that the Persons are to God as puddle, cube, and cloud are to ice or a portion of ice.

The plot thickens, as it were.