aseity

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Microview: “Beyond the Control of God? Six Views on the Problem of God and Abstract Objects” edited by Paul Gould

A Picture I took on a snowy, overcast day. Rights reserved.

Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects will surely be viewed by many as a kind of idiosyncratic book on a topic of little interest, let alone importance. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The difficulty of abstract objects and how they relate to God is something which touches on matters of divine aseity, the truth of propositions, and even how we conceive of things like properties and universals.

The introductory essay by the editor, Paul Gould, does much to provide background on the topic, why it’s a problem, and what major views there are related to it. The individual views are each interesting and come from sometimes radically different perspectives. Do abstract objects exist independently of God? Might they instead depend on God? Do they even “exist” in the sense of having ontological existence? These questions are each approached in different ways by the various authors.

The range of views is fairly broad, with such views as Platonism, other forms of realism, creationism, and anti-realism are presented. Each essay presents the author’s own set of answers to the questions about abstracta and leads to several solid insights.

One difficulty with the book is the chapter titles do little to provide insight into what the view of each author is, so unless one pays attention to the introduction, one has to guess at the author’s view until it is explicitly stated (which it may or may not be).

Ultimately, the lack of space authors are given both in their essays and responses means that the book does little at points to shed light on the topic. The authors are at times reduced to saying little more than that they disagree with a point of another without having room to expand on that disagreement. Because of the lack of depth, readers are left wondering at times what the authors’ views even are. For example, I read Yandell’s initial essay with little concept of exactly what he was arguing for as opposed to what he argued against. I re-read the essay and realized he stated his view only in a short paragraph. It really is inexcusable in a book which offers different views to have so little space for each view, particularly when the topic is as complex as that of abstract objects.

Despite this lack of space, the book is very interesting and provides much insight into the difficulty of God and abstract objects. It is unfortunate that such a complex topic wasn’t given the space it needs to truly get off the ground.

The Good

+Interesting topic with a great set of contributors
+Very solid introduction
+Offers both responses from other authors and a rejoinder for each essay
+Smart selection of views with insights from each

The Bad

-Extremely technical arguments with little room for expounding on them
-Chapters are too short at times to even understand what each view is
-Chapter titles cause confusion by not putting forth authors’ views

Overall

Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects is an interesting book on an important, if oft-neglected, topic. However, the very short length given to each contributor makes it very difficult to even get a grasp of what the authors’ views are. Despite this lack of space, the book is extremely interesting and provides much insight into the difficulty of God and abstract objects. It is unfortunate that the interesting topic wasn’t given the space it needs to truly get off the ground.

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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects edited Paul Gould (Bloomsbury, 2014).

 

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Molinism and Aseity- A knock-down argument against middle knowledge?

stpeters2One of the most recent “Straight Thinking” podcasts–a podcast put on by Reasons to Believe–featured Travis Campbell discussing Middle Knowledge (which is an aspect of the philosophical theological position known as molinism). Middle Knowledge is, essentially, God’s knowledge of counterfactuals–that is, the knowledge of things like “If someone talks about molinism, J.W. Wartick will be interested.” That is a counterfactual because it states something which may be contrary to fact–that is, it depends on some condition to be fulfilled in order to be true (in the example above, it is the occasion of someone to talk about molinism).

On the second part of the interview, Campbell discussed some objections to molinism which he felt made the position intractable. One of the first objections he presented was an objection from “aseity” that is, God’s self-existence. According to the doctrine of divine aseity, God does not rely upon anything else for God’s existence. Now, molinism classically holds that God surveys the realm of possible worlds prior to the creative act and so sees all possibilities related to free creaturely choices. Then, God creates the world God desires. Campbell argued that this undermines God’s aseity because it makes God dependent upon creatures for omniscience–one of God’s essential attributes.

The argument, if sound, has great force. After all, if molinism means one must deny an essential attribute of God, there is a pretty serious difficulty with the doctrine. But does it? Campbell cited William Lane Craig, a leading proponent of molinism, as admitting that molinism entails that God’s knowledge, at least, is in some sense dependent upon creaturely choices. From what I have read of WLC,*  I have found it seems he frequently makes it appear as though molinism presents God as able to choose among any parts of possible worlds to construct whatever possible world God wants. Not correct… but possibly also not Craig’s actual view;* perhaps Craig is only making it seem thus when he discusses molinism in summary. What I’m getting at is that I’m not convinced Craig is as consistent a molinist as, well, Molina (or in modern times, Thomas P. Flint).

Now for the claim itself, I do not think it follows that God is actually dependent upon creaturely choices. And, if it follows from molinism that God is dependent in that way, then it must also be true of any view which holds to foreknowledge whatsoever. In fact, this is where I have a pretty serious bone to pick with any view which denies comprehensive foreknowledge. Unless I am much mistaken–which is quite possible–the realm of possible worlds is a set of necessary truths. That is, each possible world is a complete set of all true propositions for the entire history of that world.*** But if that is the case, then molinism is no different on God’s creative activity than any other view of creation, for God is simply selecting one from a set of possible worlds.

There is debate over how such a set of possible worlds might be populated–does the set of possible worlds come from God, or is it simply a set of necessary truths?** Whatever one’s answer for this, it remains clear to me that molinism is not defective in this area: the molinist simply holds that God selects a possible world from the set of possible worlds. The fact that the molinist emphasizes that these possible worlds include free choices is essentially a moot point so far as aseity is concerned. If there is such a set of possible worlds, then any view of God’s foreknowledge and creation has to acknowledge that God’s creative act is the bringing forth of one such possible world. If there is no such set, then it seems our universe is necessary, which would itself be problematic for the doctrine of creation.

So it seems to me that Campbell failed to make a compelling argument against molinism from aseity. In order for his argument to be successful, he would have to show that molinism’s view of possible worlds is somehow radically different from any other position and then also demonstrate that molinism’s view also necessarily makes God dependent upon creaturely freedom. But of course that would also involve him having to show that the set of possible worlds, on molinism, is itself independent of God. And it seems to me that although perhaps not all molinists hold that God does generate the set of possible worlds, it is entirely possible for a molinist to consistently hold that this is the case: the set of possible worlds is dependent upon God. And, if that is true, Campbell’s argument fails. I conclude that Campbell’s argument fails because it is both incomplete and unsound.

*I have his Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom but I am working through Molina’s work before I transition into it.

**Interestingly, Craig is working in this area for his next major academic work, according to his own discussion of related topics on his podcasts.

***One may hold that a possible world is merely the starting conditions of a world, but I do not see how that distinction could be made coherently. That is, I’m not convinced that a set of possible worlds would not include the entire history of the possible world. Moreover, any who would argue that God has comprehensive knowledge of the future would have to grant that God’s creative act would entail the history of the entire [possible] world.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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