“You were filming that?”
In the last post, I explained that for Athanasius’s version of the derivation view, when the Father generates the Son, the Father shares his substance with the Son. That means, I took it, that the Father himself becomes a constituent in the Son, similar to the way that a lump of bronze is a constituent in a bronze statue.
One of the things Athanasius wants to do with this idea is explain how the Son is divine/God. The basic idea is that the Father shares his substance, i.e., Divinity, with the Son, and so the Father shares his properties with the Son. That is, to put it the other way around, the Son inherits properties from the Father. This is supposed to account for how the Son gets divine properties. However, this is where we start to run into problems.
Suppose, for example, we said that the Son inherits all the Father’s properties. If that’s the case, then for any property the Father has, the Son will inherit it and therefore have that property too.
This might be desirable for all the divine properties like omniscience, omnipotence, and so forth because we might want to say that the Son is all those things. But what about the Father’s property of begetting the Son? Consider an argument given by Richard Cross:
- The Son inherits all the Father’s properties =df for any F,
if the Father is F, the Son is F.
- The Father begets the Son.
- Therefore the Son begets the Son.
Is this feasible? Well, not if we assume that begetting is an irreflexive relation. If begetting (or, more generally, production) is irreflexive, then nothing can beget itself:
(T2) For any x, it is impossible for x to beget x.
If that’s right, then T2 contradicts (3), so we have a problem. Of course, we might reject T2, but that doesn’t necessarily get us out of hot water. After all, we might just reformulate (1) – (3) like this:
- The Son inherits all the Father’s properties =df for any F, if the Father is F, the Son is F.
- The Father is unbegotten.
- Therefore the Son is unbegotten.
But (3) contradicts the original claim T1: the Son is begotten by the Father. So we’re still in trouble. We might point out that being unbegotten is not a genuine property, but rather only a logical negation. Even so, if (1) and (2) are true, it’s hard to see how (3) wouldn’t follow, irrespective of whether or not negative properties (like being unbegotten) are real, extramental properties. At the very least, then, we have a logical problem to solve.
The most obvious way to escape such problems is to deny (1): the Son does not inherit all the Father’s properties. Instead, we might say that the Son inherits some of the Father’s properties, but not all of them. In particular, we might say that the Son inherits the Father’s divine properties, but no other properties:
(T3) The Son inherits the Father’s divine properties =df for any F that belongs to the Father, the Son is F iff F is a divine property.
Nonetheless, it’s not clear to me that T3 is compatible with DV. If the Son inherits only some but not all the Father’s properties, what determines which properties the Son inherits? How could that be explained without resorting to ad hoc strategies?
One might say that Divinity is identical to the Father’s substance, but the Father’s substance is not identical to the Father (the Father has his own property or properties that his substance/Divinity does not). That way, when the Father shares his substance with the Son, he’s only sharing Divinity and not his whole self. Then the Son would only inherit divine properties, not the Father’s personal property or properties.
However, that more or less commits one to a generic view, not a derivation view. In the next post, I’ll turn to the generic view.