Against the Divine Simplicity: Craig contra Aquinas

First, I wish to thank you both for your effort. The problem is not that I don’t understand what you talk about, because I do understand it (I had to study philosophy in college, and I have a decent, but not genius IQ. So comprehension is not the problem.). The problem is that we must use human language and human terms, since that is all we have.

What you both say is that God is so “different”, that human concepts are useless when applied to God. That would be fine, if you only said that God is totally unintelligible, beyond any human comprehension. But most apologists prefer to use “super-intelligible”, which is simply the politically correct way of saying that God is incomprehensible. When you say that God’s love is “super-love”, then this sentence has no informational value. It is an empty utterance. When God’s “super-love” not just does not manifest itself in a manner which we can experience, but that “super-love” is compatible with causing/allowing all the things we actually experience in our life, then the phrase “super-love” is not just unintelligible, but it becomes a “cuss-word”. And the problem is that the apologists assert that God has all these “positive attributes”, but those positive attributes are meaningless. Furthermore, if someone points out the negative aspects, then the reply is: “you don’t understand what you talk about”. You can’t have it both ways. :slight_smile:

I am not totally ignorant about Aquinas, I merely see his work as much ado about nothing. The problem with esoteric terminology is not that it is esoteric, rather that it is without meaning, and the proponents are too shy to admit it. (Furthermore he commits a bunch of logical fallacies, but the defenders do not admit them.) “The emperor has no clothes!” - and only the street urchin has the courage to say it out loud.

There is the “god” of agnosticism. When you ask who or what that “god” is, the “agnostic believer” answers honestly (!): “I don’t know”. When you ask him what does he believe in, his answer is (again): “I don’t know”. When you ask him why does he believe this, he says: “I don’t know”. We could agree that if someone has no idea what he believes in, than that “belief” is nonsensical. The problem is that as soon as we start to “scratch” the Christian God… what we find is the “god of agnosticism” in a window dressing.

By the way, God does not “communicate” with us. No one can see God, no one can experience God, no one can hear God… regardless of what some people say.

You keep saying you understand Thomas enough to critique him, but then you go on to demonstrate that you don’t grasp the nuances of his negative theology. What we can in principle know about God from His effects is a huge topic in Thomism, and you are basically caricaturing an exaggerated characterization of it.

Simply begging the question.

A summary is not a caricature. You cannot “know” anything about the effects of God, if you cannot even define what God is and what God’s actual properties might be. And if those properties are meaningless exaggerations, then God is a meaningless term.

What “question”?

Actually, I didn’t say that at all. What I said is that human concepts cannot be applied univocally to God, but only analogically.

Also, you say that St Thomas “commits a bunch of logical fallacies”.

Could you give me an example of such a logical fallacy committed by St Thomas?

You haven’t given us a summary of anything Thomas said. All we have seen from you is misunderstanding regarding the Thomistic concepts of analogy and negative theology. You have also asserted in many places that the terminology Thomas (or maybe just philosophers in general? but would I be wrong to assume you mean Thomas especially?) uses is poorly defined or unclear, which is false. Thomas was consistent in his terminology, which in currency in his time since Aristotelianism was the default philosophy.

This isn’t true. By God’s “effects” I mean His creation, ie. that which is is the proper effect of He Who Is. Hence Thomas’s epistemology involves observing the world.

We do not define God from the get go (although, as Christians, we obviously have an idea of Him whether we’ve delved into Scholastic philosophy or not). Rather we conclude from the Five Ways that there is a Being who is Pure Act. God’s properties follow from there and we find that Pure Act is, in fact, the Christian God.

We already went through this.

Human nature is to human’s love as God’s nature is to God’s love. We know what human nature is, and we know what human’s love is. These are the two known factors. The two unknowns are God’s nature and God’s love. You wish to establish God’s “love” and God’s “nature” analogically, but you have two variables, so the equation is indeterminate. Elementary mathematics.

Now, if you say that the “analogical way” is something different, then you make the concept of analogical definition incoherent and nonsensical. The fallacy you commit here is called the fallacy of the stolen concept, where you wish to use a concept (analogical definition) and twist it into something totally different. There is only ONE analogical method which I already presented (A is to B as C is to D).

Sure. One of them is the fallacy of composition. In the “first cause argument” he wishes to extrapolate the concept of causality from within the universe unto the universe itself. Of course the “five ways” have been debunked so many times that it is not even funny. Not even all christian philosophers accept them. Come to think of it, the catholic church does not even have an official and coherent philosophy, only a loosely defined collection of Thomistic, Aristotelian, Platonic set of beliefs, sprinkled by a touch of Molinism, and mixed with some ideas propagated by Duns Scotus.

A typical case of circular reasoning. You posit that God exists and created the world, and then you wish to start from the world and say that it points to God’s “effects”.

As the catechism says: “One can know God by the light of reason, from his creation”. The same logical error. You cannot start from the world, assume that it was created, and then point to God and say: “look, there is the creator”. This is an elementary fallacy.

Looks like you have some personal problems vis a vis the Church. There is a body of Obligatory Teachings of the Church, such that if one rejects them one rejects the Faith. Scientism, which seems to be the ideology which governs your thinking, has been condemned by the Church. You refer to the Church’s teaching as circular. To one espousing the ideology of scientism that would seem to be the case.

Nevertheless, that is not the case in reality. You have also rejected Thomism or anything like it. The problem with that is that science cannot function without accepting, as self evident, Thomas’ explanation of the fundamental structure of reality, from which it is perfectly logical to conclude that because God exists, the universe exists.

I urge you to do two things. First read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Unless you have read it one can only conclude that you are pursuing a red herring. Secondly, I urge you to read " Aquinas " by Edward Feser and his blog site on the Cosmological Argument.
Otherwise you must admit that you are a pure ideologue, and to such no argument can penetrate.


The charge of circular reasoning is fallacious. I was gesturing toward Aquinas’s argumentative style. It is deduced that the things around us are the effects of God. The necessity of God (as Pure Act) is demonstrated by the reality of the things around us, which therefore must be the effects of God.

We are not implicitly assuming that God exists because we start by looking at a rock and saying, “Hey! That must be an effect of God!” At best you do not understand what Aquinas is doing. At worst you are being intellectually dishonest.

There is no “assuming” that it was created. I would also, like Linus, suggest that you read Aquinas by Edward Feser, if for no other reason than to stop burning straw men.

Aquinas isn’t twisting anything. What he calls analogy is not masquerading as what you call analogy in order to sneakily convince people to believe it.

In any case, in a sense the analogical method you propose does mirror what Aquinas is doing. The Five Ways lead us to realize that everything must be caused by Pure Act, even though we do not know strictly speaking what Pure Act is like, just that it is more pure than any act we are acquainted with. The analogy holds because that is true of all of God’s properties, ie. we do “know” three of the variables.

You seem to misunderstand the argument for the First Cause. The fallacy of composition does not apply. But Feser will be able to explain why this objection fails better than I could.

Deduction is only applicable in an axiomatic system. If you cannot prove that there is a “god”, and that “god” is the alleged “christian God”, then you cannot “deduct” anything. The so-called philosophical “proofs” for god, could only “prove” a faceless, deistic first cause - if any of them would succeed.

That is exactly what you do, and then deny it. :slight_smile:

I read quite a few of his blogs, and was genuinely unimpressed. I also read Kreeft, Craig and a few others, and my opinion of them cannot be openly expressed, since the forum rules forbid it. Needless to say they are not intellectual “giants”.

I think you may have just shot yourself in the foot here.

Name one substance that is actually simple. Only God is or could be; but we can still conceive of a simple substance notwithstanding. Everything we call simple we do so analogously to perfect simplicity as near as we can possibly conceive it. We can see how something might be more simple still, e.g.

Pure simplicity can only be known in the intellect or in thought: we have no direct access to it through our senses (because nothing subject to our senses is truly simple). Everything we know of is ordinarily complex: a compound of, e.g., essence and existence and matter and form. Notwithstanding, we can still conceive of simplicity even if we cannot fully grasp or comprehend it. We can make analogies from some things being truly more simple than other things.

Honestly, Saint Thomas knew what he was talking about in regards to analogies of being and simplicity.

Still not representing your alleged knowledge of what Aquinas actually said. Aquinas spends hundreds of pages in multiple texts showing that the First Cause, Unmoved Mover, etc. are the Christian God. To say they “could only” prove a faceless deistic God is flatly false.

Except it’s not. The proofs do not start by claiming that the things around us are God’s effects. To claim that they do is, again, either ignorance or dishonesty. I won’t assume which.

I’m not asking you to be impressed. I don’t even anticipate that you will be. I imagine that nothing Feser says would change your mind (although I of course hope otherwise). However, regardless of whatever blog posts you’ve read, you still have consistently demonstrated that you don’t understand Aquinas’s philosophy, so at the very least I think you would benefit from studying it in that you might actually be able to level valid criticisms.

You misunderstand me. The phrase “not impressed” is merely a very mild euphemism to say that based upon what I read, those people have nothing to say that is worthy to read. They are useless hacks. Of course this still does not express my true feelings, but again I respect the forum rules.

Simplicity or complexity are not inherent properties of an object. These terms reflect the relationship of the object and the mental capacity of the observer. It is exactly like to say that an object is “light” or “heavy”. To be light or heavy are not inherent properties of the object, these categories simply reflect the relationship of the object and power / strength of person who attempts to lift it.

Oh, I get it. But it doesn’t matter how unworthy of your eyes you deem them if you cannot honestly reconstruct the arguments they are defending. You can call them useless hacks (although serious atheist philosophers of religion like Quentin Smith would probably disagree with such an assessment of Craig, to say the least), but as long as you can’t actually show that you understand their arguments, your denunciation means nothing.

So I guess we’re done here. If you are content burning straw men, I won’t stop you, since it does no offense to Aquinas.

Yes we did, which I why I was surprised you mischaracterised what I said. I should also point out that calling an argument meaningless or nonsensical is more a statement of your own level of understanding than anything else. What might appear incoherent or nonsensical to you may not be meaningless to someone else. We have to be careful in philosophy about claiming our own mental states constitute arguments (Peter Geach has quite a bit to say on this if you are interested in exploring this further.)

Actually, St Thomas does not “extrapolate the concept of causality” in this way. But even if he did, it wouldn’t automatically mean that he had committed a fallacy of composition. The fallacy of composition is an informal fallacy, not a formal fallacy. In other words, moving from a definition of a part to a definition of the whole is not automatically fallacious. Informal fallacies require a little more work in order to show that in a given instance, moving from the part to the whole is fallacious. This has been tried many times by the so-called “debunkers” of first cause arguments and without success. Again, simply asserting that an argument has been “debunked” doesn’t make it so: this again is a statement about one’s own willingness to accept or reject certain arguments. We often read of such triumphalist statements from atheist and enthusiastic “debunkers” of things Thomas; but often without much substance. I could just dismiss all of your arguments in this thread by saying Polytropos has soundly “debunked” all of your criticisms.

By the way, substance is not the same kind of concept of lightness. Lightness/heaviness are relational and relative terms; something is light or heavy in relation and relative to something else. Substance defines what a thing is in itself, indepently of anything else. If there was only one thing in the universe it would be neither heavy nor light; but it would still have some substantial form. All philosophers accept this distinction because it’s quite basic; even those analytic philosophers who reject metaphysics understand that there is a significant difference between relative terms from self-referential terms.

I am simply tired of the hide-and-seek games. When some philosopher or apologist argues that “A”, and I point out that problem with that proposition, then all of a sudden comes the counter-argument that “A” is not really “A”, rather it is “B” - even though everyone knows what “A” means. And when I point out that this evasion is unacceptable, then they say that I don’t understand the argument… very boring. It is just like the standard evasion like asserting that the “trinity” is not really nonsense… it is a “mystery”.

This thread is a perfect example. In post #2 I pointed out that from God’s simplicity it logically follows that God is at least partially contingent. In other words, I pointed out a real contradiction in the “teachings”. Instead of admitting it, the dance of evasion starts.

Which is a trivial corollary of “A is A”, or the law of identity. It does not give any new information about the “whatness” of the object. The problem starts when one starts to step beyond that, and starts to create more general categories. That is the point where objectivity stops and subjectivity starts. That is the point when the analyzer picks and chooses the so-called “important” attributes and disregards the “accidents”.

A simple playing ball’s “substance” is that one can play with it - from the player’s point of view. From the merchant’s point of view the “substance” is that it can be sold, and obtain a profit. What is “substantial” for one person is irrelevant for the next. That is why I discard the concept of “substance” as a subjective category. Not “meaningless”, rather “useless”. This is but one example why I could not care less about those ancient philosophers.

That’s very enlightened of you. What with your superlative understanding of philosophy and all.

I wish you all the best on your open-minded quest for the truth.


Well said… I like sarcasm.

Thanks. But there is no such thing as “THE truth” (regardless of the cutesy little anagram of “Quid est veritas?” - “Est vir qui adest.”), so it would be a futile endeavor to look for it. Of course there are zillions of true propositions, and I am always interested in finding those.

Peace be unto you. .

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