Appeared-to-Blogly

September 10, 2012

On the Possibility of a Single Perfect Being

Filed under: Philosophical Theology,Philosophy of Religion — camcintosh @ 11:32 pm

This is (sort of) a re-post. I say “sort of” because I have mentioned this argument before. But I have strengthened and tightened it (or have tried to). So here it is in its current form. The argument crucially depends on what can be called the Endowment Thesis:

(1) x has value iff x has value by virtue of being endowed value by one or more agents

Unpacking the Endowment Thesis in two parts: First, necessary and sufficient for anything to have value is the existence of one or more agents. As such, the Endowment Thesis entails that value is a relational property. Second, the “by virtue of” here picks out the grounding relation, where explanatory asymmetricality obtains between modally symmetrical relata. Of the relation between x’s having value and x’s being endowed value by one or more agents, the following is true: (i) neither can exist without the other, and (ii) the endowing activity of one or more agents explains why x has value, but x’s having value does not explain the endowing activity of the agents. Carrying on, where G is God, now assume with all theists that

(2) There is a possible world in which G has value

where G is a lonely object (an object with no wholly-distinct worldmates. So, God sans creation, say). I take many of the properties thought to be perfections of God, such as happiness, generosity, love, goodness, benevolence, etc. to all be species of the value genus. Now, a lonely object can have a relational properties only if it has proper parts. From (1) and (2) it follows that G has proper parts, and that G has value by virtue of being endowed value by one or more agents. It is a tautological implication of (1) that

(3) Either G has value by virtue of being endowed value by one agent, or G has value by virtue of being endowed value by more than one agent

We can eliminate the former disjunct by reductio. Assume it is true. If G has value by virtue of being endowed value by one agent, then G, as a lonely object, has value by virtue of endowing himself value. But this is not possible, because the grounding relation is irreflexive. Thus,

(4) Therefore, It is not possible that G has value by virtue of being endowed value by one agent
(5) Therefore, G has value by virtue of being endowed value by more than one agent

The most natural application of the preceding is to see God as the whole of which at last two agents are proper parts. As far as philosophical arguments go, I think its a good argument.

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7 Comments »

  1. Interesting argument. But:

    “because the grounding relation is irreflexive”

    I don’t see how this goes. The grounding claim would be that <G endows G with value> grounds <G has value>. I don’t see any issue with irreflexivity. Unless you assume that part of what grounds endowing with value is having value, and those who subscribe to the Endowment Thesis will deny this, since it leads to a regress.

    Comment by Alexander R Pruss — September 11, 2012 @ 11:57 am | Reply

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dr. Pruss. You zeroed in on exactly the part I was hoping to get feedback on. So, thanks!

    I’m not yet ready to give up the idea that the first disjunct violates the irreflexivity of grounding, but I’ll have to rethink that. For now, here is another argument against the first disjunct:

    (1) If P grounds Q, then P explains Q
    (2) [G endows G with value] does not explain [G has value]
    (3) Therefore, [G endows G with value] does not ground [G has value] (1, 2 MT)

    A defense of (2) is in the paper. Some tweaking of (1) may need to be made (e.g., perhaps a more qualified notion of explanation is needed, like “a least partly explains” or “fully explains”.)

    Comment by camcintosh — September 11, 2012 @ 8:49 pm | Reply

    • Can you argue for (2) without arguing for the claim that in general [X endows G with value] does not explain [G has value]?

      Comment by Alexander R Pruss — September 11, 2012 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

      • I should hope so (if I understand you correctly, I think I do just that in the paper): I think only multi-agent models can secure a claim of the form: [X endows G with value] explains [G has value]. So I don’t want to argue for claim that in general [X endows G with value] does not explain [G has value]. My argument against (2) is that it is the particular case of [G endows G with value] that fails to explain [G has value].

        Comment by camcintosh — September 11, 2012 @ 9:24 pm

  3. Might the theist not just say that God has no value absent creation, and then claim that the expression of a value relation is a relation creation has to God, but maintain that God has no real relations with the world (thus God, for instance, never changes does not become the creator or become the savior, or ‘become’ anything at all)? As far as I can tell William Lane Craig has identified this view as entertained by St. Thomas Aquinas. Also, along the same lines, couldn’t one agent who is not God be the grounding for the value relation, and if so, what of premise 4?

    Comment by tylerjourneaux — September 13, 2012 @ 9:09 am | Reply

    • Tyler, I would consider the argument a smashing success if it resulted in the theist conceding that God has no value absent creation. It would effectively answer “yes” to the question “Must an Anselmian be a Trinitarian?”

      Comment by camcintosh — September 13, 2012 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

      • Right, well, I suppose I already believe that an Anselmian must be a Trinitarian. Interesting.

        Comment by tylerjourneaux — September 13, 2012 @ 7:57 pm


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