The Latin Trinity Chart 2 – a version of FSH modalism

 Let’s try this again.

Here’s a second application for my Latin Trinity chart (see the first post for what the letters designate). Let’s say that a state of affairs is a thing/substance having a property at a time or timelessly.

The “persons” here are just modes of D, that is, states of affairs involving D. So the Son just is D having Fi. And the Father just is D having P. And the Holy Spirit just is D having Sp. Regarding each of F, S, and H, each of them “just is” D – in the sense that in each of them, there is one and the same D. Similarly, T “just is” D – that is, it is just the state of affairs of D eternally having Fi, Sp, and P. How many things / substances are here? Just one – D. How many states of affairs? Three plus a fourth which is just the sum of the three (the Trinity). So of the Trinity, and of F, S, and, H – each of these (states of affairs) “just is God” in that there’s no other thing involved – only D. The persons are distinct (modes) and so not “confused”. Again, there really is a threesome there – the threeness isn’t an illusion, and isn’t only relative to our thoughts or perceptions of D. D really is a constituent of – the only substantial constituent of – those states of affairs (F, S, H, T).

Does this pass the tests of orthodoxy? Arguably, yes.

  • Are each of the persons “fully and equally divine”? Yep – each is as divine as anything is, as each has D as component
  • Are F, S, and H homoousias (same substance or essence)? They are, for they equally share D.
  • Are there three distinct “persons”? Yes – F, S, and H are most assuredly distinct (non-identical).
  • Is there but one God? Yes – T is the one God.
  • Are the persons individuated by only the their unique relational properties (P, Fi, and Sp)? Yes – those are all that distinguist one from another.
  • Is this compatible with divine simplicity? If the doctrine of divine simplicity says there are no distinct components or properties in the divine nature/essence (D), then yes – nothing in the chart requires any complexity in D. T is complex, of course – but what else do you expect, when it is the case that there are three ”persons” in the one God.
  • T really is composed of F, S, and H – those are not merely ways that T appears. Further, it is plausible that those three states of affairs are essential to T, in that T couldn’t exist without them.

Finally, is this a variety of modalism? Yes – specifically, eternally – concurrent, noumenal FSH modalism. Tentative conclusion: you may be a modalist of this sort and an orthodox trinitarian, as those in the ”Latin” tradition view orthodoxy.

About Dale

Dale Tuggy is a Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

7 Responses to The Latin Trinity Chart 2 – a version of FSH modalism

  1. Joseph Jedwab says:

    Dear Dale,

    Some quick points:

    1. I still think D should be the entity identical to God. D is a divine thing/substance. Isn’t God any divine thing/substance?
    2. Why think states of affairs are persons? It’s the substance that has personal properties not the states of affairs, right? I have the property of being a person. The state of affairs of my being a person is not a person.
    3. But if you think of D as a substratum, things fall into place. Then I see why D is not identical to God and how the divine Persons can be states of affairs that are complexes of the substratum and a property.
    4. What qualifies T as God? Why don’t F, S, and H also count as Gods? And why don’t F+S, S+H, and F+H also count as Gods? If there aren’t such complexes, how can there be T, which is F+S+H?
    5. Finally, I still think there’s a problem that T, as it is D having P, Fi, and Sp should qualify as a Father, a Son, and a holy Spirit? If one says these relational properties are incompatible, so that nothing can have both, e.g. P and Fi, then it seems F and S can’t share the same substratum, i.e. D.



  2. Scott says:

    Sorry I’ve been away; I hadn’t been by to see if you’ve had new posts. I’ve been off in HOGland (Henry of Ghent). And to my surprise, here you are somewhat describing Henry’s model!

    I think Joseph’s is a good question about why does D + F count as a person? Well, on Henry’s model, what we can loosely call a ‘material constitution’ (substance as matter is a characeterized matter- it isn’t like prime matter, but like an element with certain properties ex se, e.g. divine intellect, divine will, divinity, etc.) model, it is somewhat an easy answer: there is per se unity of D and F, and this unity is called a person. And, given that (D+F) have the powers of intellection and volition, it ‘passes’ some notion of personhood; even more, there is a positive incommunicable property (F) that allows us to pick out this person from that.

    On this model, the Father can’t ‘have F’ precisely b/c the name ‘Father’ consignifies two properties (D+F). So, if you say, ‘the Father loves me’, you could say ‘(D+F) loves me’. But again F is not a ‘thing’ distinct from D, rather it is only a (real) mode of D.

    But is it true to say that ‘Father’ is just a state of affairs? Well, if you take D+F as having a per se unity, rather than a per accidens one, then it is not precisely a ‘state of affairs’ but ‘one thing’?

    As for J’s question (4), I suppose this model prevents saying the Father is one God, and the Son is another God precisely b/c they have the same D.

    As for (5): “if one says these relational properties are incompatible”.. what would make being a Father and being a Son incompatible? Or rather, are you saying ‘actively generating a Son’ and ‘(passively) being generated (as a) Son’ are incompatible? In other words, how could D both be active and passive? A good question. Henry’s way through this is to say active powers are correlatives of passive powers, and that neither are ‘founded on motion’, such that these powers are just correlatives and don’t have to be taken to presuppose temporal change, or any change or prime matter. If there is an active power, then there is a passive power. You just have to be willing to think that the very same substance can be active and passive as regards the same action (e.g. understanding, or generating/being generated, or spirating/being spirated).

  3. Scott says:

    One might also had that the Personal Properties (PP) combined with the Divine Essence (DE) is not merely a state of affairs. I’ve already mentioned the per se unity of PP+DE, but it should also be added that (at least in varying degrees Aquinas, Bonaventure, Henry and Scotus) we could posit a certain basis in DE for why there is a particular PP. And the basis in the DE for ‘producing’ a certain PP is nothing other than a certain power in DE; as there are two powers (intellect and will), there is neither more nor less productions/products from these powers. And, supposing the premise that there can be no action from a power without an agent, we have to posit a first agent (the Father) who produces the Son/Word by a peculiar productive act of the intellect, etc.

    So it is not merely a state of affairs, but some scholastics posit arguments from the powers of the DE as acted on by an agent (or agents in the case of the production of the Holy Spirit) for why there are other divine persons, and a certain number of divine persons at that.

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  6. Secundus says:

    I posted this in response to Chart 1, but I think it is an important part of THIS discussion as well…

    What is wrong with this chart is that it depersonalizes the Divine Essence of God as a sort of “fourth thing” in the Trinity. The Divine Essence of the Trinity is the Divine Essence of the FATHER! The Father HIMSELF is the “root of being” of the Trinity. The Son is begotten of the FATHER from all eternity–not from some impersonal blob of “Divine Substance” out of which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit emerge! The Son is Divine because he shares the Divinity OF THE FATHER…not because he emerges from this amorphous mass of “Divinity” called “the Divine Essence”. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the FATHER, not from a seperate “Divine Essence”. It is in the PERSON OF THE FATHER HIMSELF that the Oneness of God is found. The Trinity is one because the FATHER is one, not because they all emerge from the same “Divine Primordial Soup”.

    The Son and the Holy Spirit share in the Divinity of the Father, and the Father shares his glory and his power with the Son and the Holy Spirit. All things flow FROM THE FATHER to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Everything the Son and the Spirit have comes to them from the Father. Yes, each Person has certain unique Divine attributes–as your diagram shows “Paternity” is the Father’s unique Divine attribute, and “filiation” is the Son’s unique Divine attribute, and “spiration” is the Holy Spirit’s unique Divine attribute. But each of these has to do with RELATIONSHIP to the Father. The Father alone is unbegotten and unproceeding….he is the Source, the Fountainhead, the Root of Being for the Trinity. The Son alone is Begotten, and he alone bears the relationship of a Son to the Father. Only the Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father. What is the difference between “begotten-ness” and “procession”…no one can know…but they are SOMEHOW qualitatively different from one another. What makes the Son the Son is his relationship to the Father. What makes the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit is his relationiship to the Father. What makes the Father the Father is that he alone is the source and root of the Trinity.

    Only in this way can we affirm everything the Scriptures teach us. When we depersonalize the Divine Essence and make it into a “fourth thing” in the Trinity, and the source of the unity and oneness of the Trinity, we fall into the error of a kind of Semi-Sabellianism. This leads to the denial of the “Monarchy of the Father” as the highest in honor and source of all things in the Trinity and culminates in a kind of “Egalitarian” view of the Trinity, where there IS NO hierarchy within the Trinity, and leads to the conclusion that ANY ONE OF THE THREE of the Persons COULD have become Incarnate. Whereas the fact is that ONLY the Son could have become Incarnate because it is part of his uniqueness and his relationship to the Father. ONLY HE could have become Flesh. The Father could not and would not have. The Spirit could not and would not have. ONLY the Son…BECAUSE He is the Son…became Flesh.

    Your Fellow Seeker,

  7. Marg says:

    I like what you are saying, Secundus. Both times around.

    My only question would be – do you equate the word Trinity with the word God? You haven’t said so, so maybe …

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