Is the Son God? In the immortal words of Bill Clinton, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Brower and Rea suggest the following classification of meanings of “is” (in logic, “is” is called “the copula” – that which connects the subject and what’s being said of that subject).
Um, no the Clintons aren’t in the original chart in their paper (71).
And yes, Bill is intrigued by the word “copula”.
It’s fair to say that most philosophers don’t believe there’s any such thing as the part Hilary is glaring at. (II.B.1 and II.B.2) This includes me, I’m afraid. In this blog, and in my published articles, I use “identical”, “one and the same thing as”, and “numerically the same” to all mean the important relation of identity – that weird relation which everything bears only to itself. Here are some random thoughts about their concept of “numerical sameness”, with the aim of helping you understand what they’re thinking.
- “Numerical sameness” is supposed to be symmetric and transitive.
- symmetric: If x is numerically the same as y, it follows that y is numerically the same as x.
- transitive: If x and y are numerically the same, and so are y and z, then it follows that x and z are numerically the same as well.) (66-7)
- They think that x and y can be qualitatively different – such that some things are true of x but not of y and vice-versa – and yet be “numerically the same”. They want to say that x and y are not identical, but are such that they (notice the plural) “should be” counted as one thing. While most philosophers think we should always count by identity, they deny that. (62, section 2.2) They suggest that most sorts of things should be counted by numerical sameness without identity, while other sorts of things should be counted by identity. (63)
- You’d think “numerical sameness” would be a one-one relation, i.e. the “two things” that stand in it are really identical. But no – a thing can be “numerically the same as” (say) seven-hundred non-identical things, and they can each be to it as well.
- I don’t grasp why they classify identity and numerical sameness without identity as species under a common genus. To put it differently, I think II.A should rather be III, as I don’t see what II.A and II.B have in common.
- Oddly, items which are “numerically the same” needn’t even be in the same category as each other. Hence, Socrates is in the category of substance, while “Seated-Socrates” is a mere “accidental unity” – not a substance, but rather a “hylomorphic structure” built of a substance (Socrates) and a non-essential property of that substance (seatedness). They hold the Father (etc.) to be “numerically the same divine individual” as the divine essence. (70) What’s an “individual”? I guess a non-substantial but property-bearing particular thing or entity. (This is yet another controversial claim – that there are such things. Again, it’s controversial that something could be “divine” while only being an individual and not a substance.) So again, substance on one side, non-substance on the other.
- Is this really monotheism? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three non-identical, divine substances, though they are also supposedly “numerically the same without being identical”. What is unique, in the sense that nothing non-identical to it is numerically the same as it? “The divine essence.” But that isn’t a thing (substance) at all, only a stuff, much less a divine thing/entity/substance. Of course, it “constitutes” three distinct but “numerically the same hylomorphic compounds” – the three Persons. But on this theory, there is no divine person which is identical to God. So if by “God” you meant a “unique” divine person, in that sense they hold that there’s no God. Of course, what they want to say, is that the Three are to be counted as one God, in virtue of their sharing that something-like-an-immaterial-stuff. I guess it’s an oddball sort of monotheism, no more odd than many other trinitarian theories have it.
- In the plus column: this theory entirely avoids S-modalism.
That was all just circling around the issue and poking at it a few times. Well, why believe in this “numerical sameness without identity”? Have they been smoking crack? No – worse – they’ve been out behind the barn metaphysicalizing like crazy, about material objects. It goes like this:
- You have intuitions about material objects like those in my Lumpy and Ned example. You don’t say, “there’s no such thing as Lumpy” (and/or Ned); rather, you believe there can be co-located things, at least if they’re of different kinds.
- In response to 1, you also want to say that while Ned and Lumpy are non-identical, there’s only one material object over there right now, where that Garden gnome is standing.
- If you’re still on board, you got what they call a “problem of material constitution” to deal with. (62) (You can join the club of philosophers in this book edited by Mike.)
- You read Aristotle (see their 60-1 & the sources in their footnote 14) and note his belief in what others have called “kooky objects” like “seated Socrates” – a thing which exists so long as Socrates is seated – and “standing Socrates” – a thing which begins to exist when Socrates stands up, annihilating “seated Socrates”. Maybe you’re not sure if you believe in such things or not (61) but what the heck – you decide that the relation Aristotle posits between Socrates and seated Socrates – “accidental sameness” – might apply to the objects of common sense. Maybe fists and hands are “accidentally the same”, and so are Lumpy and Ned.
- You note that things which are “accidentally the same” are the “same”, but might not have been. And you say, well, maybe things can be the “same” but are such that they can’t not be the same. So you generalize, hypothesizing that there are two kinds of sameness without identity, the accidental and the essential kind.
- Happily, this last relation seems fit for duty when it comes to trinitarian theology.
My point in spelling this out, beyond making their motivations clear, is just this: it all hinges on 1. I don’t have those intuitions, so I get off the bus there. While it’s convenient to think and talk about that batch of atoms (or maybe fundamental particles) over there as “Ned” the statue or, maybe for some different purposes as “Lumpy” the lump, I don’t think there are such objects (what Aristotle calls primary substances) in the world. In my view there just a series of causally and spatially related events, which for our purposes we think of as things (which last through time and change). In Buddhist terminology, “Ned” and “Lumpy” are no more than “convenient designations”. Is this a violation of common sense? It depends what you mean by common sense. If it’s the set of things which normal adult humans in normal circumstances know, then I don’t think so. It is against common sense, in that it seems natural to believe at least in things like statues (I not so sure about lunch.) But in any case, how can this be a required Christian belief, when many Christians, such as me, have contrary intuitions, ones which in no obvious way contradict scripture, or even the creeds? And a great mass of others, will simply lack any relevant intuitions. The answer seems to be: it can’t be. But if you’re going for a great-creed-consistent doctrine, it has to be required. (E.g. See the nasty clause at the start of this.)