Monthly Archives: April 2017

Dr. Tuggy’s response

I posted a critique of Dr. Dale Tuggy’s Trilemma a couple of weeks ago.

He offered a charitable analysis, and when I have time, I hope to respond.  Check it out here.

Or you can listen through Youtube:

The Cartesian Ontological Argument

D1. God is the x such that for all attributes Y, if Y is a perfection, Y belongs to x.
P1. Necessarily existing is a perfection
P2. For all x, if it is not the case that x exists, possibly it is not the case that x exists.
C. God exists.


E!x ≝ x exists
P(Y)≝ Y is a perfection

g ≝ (ɿx)(∀Y)(P(Y)⊃ Yx)

1. P(☐E!) (premise)
2. (∀x)[~E!x ⊃ ♢~E!x] (premise)
3. ~E!g (IP)
4. (∃x){[(∀Y)(P(Y) ⊃ Yx) ∧ (∀y)[(∀Y)(P(Y) ⊃ Yy) ⊃ (y = x)]] ∧ ~E!x} (3 theory of descriptions)
5. [(∀Y)(P(Y)⊃ Yμ) ∧ (∀y)[(∀Y)(P(Y)⊃ Yy) ⊃ (y = μ)]] ∧ ~E!μ (4 EI)
6. ~E!μ ⊃ ♢~E!μ (2 UI)
7. ~E!μ (5 Simp)
8. ♢~E!μ (6,7 MP)
9. ~☐E!μ (8 MN)
10. (∀Y)(P(Y) ⊃ Yμ) ∧ (∀y)[(∀Y)(P(Y) ⊃ Yy) ⊃ (y = μ)] (5 Simp)
11. (∀Y)(P(Y) ⊃ Yμ) (10 Simp)
12. P(☐E!) ⊃ ☐E!μ (11 UI)
13. ☐E!μ (1,12 MP)
14. ☐E!μ ∧ ~☐E!μ (9,13 Conj)
15. E!g (3-14 IP)

In the definition, I am just setting down what I take g to mean… all I mean by g is that it is the something that, for any attribute, if that attribute is a perfection, then it has that perfect attribute. So God is the being that has all perfections (as I define God).  You might say that there is no definite description of a perfect being, i.e. there could be multiple perfect beings.  However, I would argue that there cannot be two omnipotent beings, since a simple reductio would rule out this possibility.  That is, if there are two omnipotent beings, then any power the one has would be limited by whether or not the other being wills to bring about a contradictory state of affairs.  Since they cannot both bring about contradictory states of affairs, they cannot both be omnipotent.  So there cannot be two beings that have all perfections, given that omnipotence is a perfection that implies uniqueness.  Descartes says that his idea of a supremely perfect being is clear and distinct, which in turn justifies is appeal to the definition (even incoherent stipulated definitions can be rejected).  Leibniz famously demanded a more rigorous proof that the definition is coherent, and sought to prove all perfections cohere.  I think it is a mistake to then interpret Leibniz’s ontological argument in terms of using God’s possibility to infer his necessary existence via S5 in modal logic.  Rather, I think he is doing what Descartes is doing, namely trying to show that the definition of God is self-consistent.

Leibniz’s proof for the self-consistency of the concept of a supremely perfect being is through an analysis of a perfection, which he says is simple, positive, and unlimited.  If any two perfections are inconsistent, one of them would have to be negative, or contain a part that is negative.  But a perfection cannot, by definition, be negative, or contain parts.  So any two perfections can cohere.  Leibniz reasons that if this is so, then all perfections cohere, and so a being that has all perfections is coherent.

P1 say necessary existence is a perfection because a perfection is any attribute that is of a simple kind that is positively complete. Omniscience is a perfection of because it is an attribute of the simple kind (knowledge) that is positively complete. Whatever has omniscience lacks nothing with respect to knowledge. So we recognize omniscience as a kind of perfection regarding knowledge. So necessary existence is an attribute regarding the simple kind “modes of existence” that is positively complete. Whatever exists necessarily exists in all possible situations, so it does not lack positive existence given any other state of affairs.

P2 is axiomatically true given that if something is necessarily true (system M of modal logic), then it is true. Assume P2 is false: ~(~E!x ⊃ ♢~E!x), this is logically equivalent to saying ~E!x ∧ ☐E!x (x does not exist and necessarily x exists). Given system M, ☐E!x implies E!x, so P2 cannot be false. In order to object to P2, you would have to say that some necessary truths are not actually true, which I think is a rather absurd position to take.

Tuggy’s Trilemma

Dale Tuggy offers the following trilemma over at his excellent Trinities blog/podcast:

1. Jesus died.

2. Jesus was fully divine.

3. No fully divine being has ever died.

Tuggy explains that one cannot hold to all three, so at least one must go.  But which one? As a unitarian, he thinks the Biblical data requires the affirmation of 1 and 3, and so rejects 2.

I am going to respond to this Trilemma by adopting a “Two Natures” view as expressed by the doctrine of the hypostatic union.  So, I believe the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is a Divine hypostasis that has two natures.  Those natures are not mixed or confused.

Proposition 1:  Did Jesus die?

I accept that Jesus Christ died.  This is affirmed throughout scripture.  1 Peter 3:18 tells us that he was “put to death in the flesh”, in Matthew 27:50 John 19:30 it is said that Jesus “gave up the ghost.”  The death of Christ is a mystery of the Catholic faith, repeated at every Mass in both thr litergy and in the Nicene Creed.

So, I am inclined to accept (1).  I will note, however, that the plain reading of scripture suggests that death involves the flesh and separation or loss of the soul or spirit.  So, I would understand death as the separation of the soul from the body.  Tuggy defines death as the loss of all or most living functions and does not limit life-functions to biological or natural life functions.  The question might then be raised if, on the two-natures view, an individual hypostasis is dead if the life-functions of one of his natures are still fully operational even if the life-functions of the other nature become severally restricted.  It seems to me that when orthodox Christians claim that Jesus died, they mean that the human substance that he assumed at the incarnation was destroyed by the separation of Christ’s human soul from his human body, but that he also has a divine nature in which he is consubstantial with the Father and Holy Spirit.  That divine substance is essentially immortal.

So, would Tuggy say that I deny Proposition 1?  I don’t know, but I think there is a literal sense in which Jesus died.

Proposition 2: Was Jesus fully divine?

Here, I think we need to tease out different ways of understanding “fully”.  In one sense, a thing can be fully of a nature if that is the only nature it has.  For example, I am fully human and this implies that I am not anything non-human.  In this sense, it could not be said that Jesus is fully divine.  Jesus is divine, but on the two natures view, we must reject the implication that he is not anything non-divine.  He is human, and a human nature, even if assumed by a divine person, does not become a divine nature (lest we confuse the natures).

There is a sense in which I would say Jesus is fully divine though.  I would say that something is fully some nature if it lacks nothing essentially had by things of that nature.  So, again, I am fully human in this sense too, since I do not lack any of the essential attributes of a human.  We might imagine some monster, like the Minotaur, who is half-man and half-bull.  Such a creature may have some of the essential attributes of a human, and some of the attributes of a bull, but really could not be said to be fully human or fully bull.  That is not Christ’s situation, however.  He is not a monstrosity, but has a complete human nature and a complete divine nature.  So according to his human nature, he has a human body, human organs, a human mind, a human will, and so forth.  According to his divine nature, as I said above, Christ is of the very same substance as the Father and the Holy Spirit, and so according to that divine nature, shares in the Divine Essence and lacks nothing essential to the True God.  In this sense Jesus is fully divine.  That is, he is a hypostasis that has a divine nature identical to the divine ousia.  Would Tuggy agree with me that I can affirm Proposition 2, in some sense?  I am not sure.

Proposition  3:  Can a fully divine being die?

Again, there is a sense in which I affirm 3 and a sense in which it could be said that I deny 3.  As Aristotle tells, “being” is said in many ways.  In fact, he thought the primary sense of “being” is “ousia” (see Meta IV.2).  Another sense of “being” could be some individual x, which is how I understand the function of “hypostasis” or “supposite” in these debates.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are persons insofar as they are rational individuals.  We could say that the Father is a rational being.  In fact, the Father is essentially rational insofar as he cannot fail to have an intellect and will.  However, he is not essentially rational insofar as he is an individual x, but insofar as his substance is essentially rational.  Substances have essential attributes, and individual have essential attributes only with reference to their substances.  They do not have essential attributes qua hypostasis or because they are an individual x.

So, I would say that essential immortality belongs to the divine substance (ousia).  Divine Persons, or Divine Hypostases are essentially immortal only in reference to their substantial nature.  It makes no sense to say that a Divine Person is essentially immortal because of the essential nature of being a hypostasis.

Can  the Divine Ousia die?  No, it is essentially immortal.  Can a divine hypostasis die when referencing their divine nature?  No.  Can a divine hypostasis assume a moral nature and die with respect to that nature.  Yes, and Thomas Aquinas agrees that each of the divine hypostases could have assumed a moral nature (I mention this not to appeal to his authority, but as a marker to show that I am not far off the reservation of orthodoxy).

Conclusion: So, there is a sense in which I affirm all three propositions.  I really affirm that Jesus died a human death, which is the separation of the human soul from the human body in which most of the living functions of the human substance ceased.  I really affirm that Jesus is a fully divine hypostasis insofar as he has a nature that lacks none of the essential divine attributes.  I really affirm that the fully divine ousia is essentially immortal.  I think these are ways to affirm what orthodox Christians mean when they say such things, though they may not be what Tuggy means.  So he might say that I reject all three propositions, even if I think I affirm them after making the distinctions I have made.  But then we would just be quibbling, and I could grant that I reject one or more of the propositions as Tuggy defines them and still safely be in orthodoxy.  Nonetheless, I see no contradiction in accepting the three propositions given my qualifications.

Ontological Argument Improved Again


E!x ≝ x exists in re
Ix ≝ x exists in intellectu
Gx ≝ x admits of more greatness
G<Px,~Px> ≝ x having P is greater than x not having P
Gxy ≝ x is greater than y
©… ≝ it is conceivable that…

g ≝ (ɿx)(~©Gx ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyx)

1. (∀x)[(Ix ∧ ~E!x) ⊃ ©E!x] (premise)
2. (∀x)G<E!x, (~E!x ∧ Ix)> (premise)
3. (∀x){[[~E!x ∧ G<E!x, (~E!x ∧ Ix)>] ∧ ©E!x] ⊃ ©Gx}(premise)
4. Ig (premise)
5. ~E!g (IP)
6. Ig ∧ ~E!g (4,5 Conj)
7. (Ig ∧ ~E!g) ⊃ ©E!g (1 UI)
8. ©E!g (6,7 MP)
9. G<E!g, (~E!g ∧ Ig)> (2 UI)
10. ~E!g ∧ G<E!g, (~E!g ∧ Ig)> (8,9 Conj)
11. [~E!g ∧ G<E!g, (~E!g ∧ Ig)>] ∧ ©E!g (5,10 Conj)
12. [[~E!g ∧ G<E!g, (~E!g ∧ Ig)>] ∧ ©E!g] ⊃ ©Gg (3 UI)
13. ©Gg (11,12 MP)
14. (∃x){{[~©Gx ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyx] ∧ (∀z){[~©Gz ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyz] ⊃ (z = x)]}} ∧ ©Gx} (13 theory of descriptions)
15. {[~©Gμ ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyμ] ∧ (∀z){[~©Gz ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyz] ⊃ (z = μ)]}} ∧ ©Gμ (14 EI)
16. {(∀z){[~©Gz ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyz] ⊃ (z = μ)]} ∧ [~©Gμ ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyμ]} ∧ ©Gμ (15 Comm)
17. {(∀z){[~©Gz ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyz] ⊃ (z = μ)]} ∧ [~©(∃y)Gyμ ∧ ~©Gμ]} ∧ ©Gμ (16 Comm)
18. {(∀z){[[~©Gz ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyz] ⊃ (z = μ)]} ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyμ] ∧ ~©Gμ} ∧ ©Gμ (17 Assoc)
19. (∀z){[[~©Gz ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyz] ⊃ (z = μ)]} ∧ ~©(∃y)Gyμ] ∧ {~©Gμ ∧ ©Gμ} (18 Assoc)
20. ~©Gμ ∧ ©Gμ (19 Simp
21. E!g (5-20 IP)

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