Dale Tuggy

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


  1. Michael
    December 28, 2013 @ 6:13 pm


    I for one agree with the reductio you have presented–and presented very simply and clearly. The Thomistic conception of God as being itself cannot be true if the dogma of the trinity is true. It is interesting that no trinitarian has issued a response yet to your post. At any rate, the truth is that both the Thomistic conception of God as being itself and the dogma of the trinity are false. God is neither being itself nor a trinity. He is one being and one person.

  2. Can my idea of God “live long and prosper”?
    December 14, 2013 @ 10:02 am

    […] post on mystics and atheists got a lot of attention. Dale Tuggy has responded (and the ending of his post inspired the title of this […]

  3. dguller
    December 4, 2013 @ 9:40 am

    One problem with the Thomist account of esse is that it leads to a contradiction with the Trinity, I think.

    According to Aquinas, the divine essence is Being itself, and anything other than Being itself is a creature.

    Aquinas endorses the following principle:

    (1) If A is really distinct from B, then what A and B have in common cannot be identical to what A and B do not have in common

    (1) makes sense, because to reject (1) is to embrace the logical contradiction that what A and B have in common is identical to what A and B do not have in common, which is equivalent to endorsing that X is identical to not-X.

    Moving on, Aquinas says that the divine persons have the divine essence in common. On the basis of (1), the divine essence cannot be identical to what the divine persons do not have in common, which we can call X. In other words, X is not the divine essence. Aquinas identifies X with the different divine relations of origin and procession, but that is irrelevant. The only important point is that X cannot be identical to the divine essence, on pain of logical contradiction. Therefore, X must be other than the divine essence. Furthermore, since the divine essence is Being itself, it follows that X must be other than Being itself, which means that X must be a creature. Therefore, the differentiating factor that accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons is a creature, which means that “prior” to creation, there was no real distinction between the divine persons, which is absurd, because it would mean that the divine persons somehow depend upon creation, amongst other huge problems.

    So, if Aquinas is correct that the divine essence is Being itself, then the Trinity is false, and if the Trinity is true, then it must be false that the divine essence is Being itself.

  4. Matthew Frost
    November 29, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    Dale, masculine pronouns aren’t gender neutral at any time. Suggestions that the use of masculine pronouns should be understood as generic simply perpetuate patriarchy. The use of “one” or the third-person plural in contexts referring to a generic individual or a member of a mixed-gender class are the proper ways of going about that: “Those entering must first wipe their shoes.” But of course, the imperative would do far better: “Wipe your shoes when entering.”

    That said, there is no generic third-person singular specific pronoun. There simply is none. We have masculine, feminine, and neutral pronouns, but the neutral pronoun is “it.” And as you’ve noticed, “it” has problems of its own.

  5. Dale
    November 26, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

    Hi Michael,

    You are certainly correct that the best sort of refutation starts with premises all of which the opponent will agree to, and ends with a validly deduced conclusion which with which the opponent must disagree.

    Honestly, though, past experience has made me wary of diving into that particular philosophical mud pit. And time and energy are finite.

  6. Dale
    November 26, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

    Hi Matthew,

    “the gendering of God” – I don’t think God literally has a gender. Both men and women, equally, are made in his image. It is an interesting question why the Jewish and Christian traditions use predominantly male metaphors for and male pronouns for God.

    Note, that there is a gender-neutral usage of “he” and “him.” e.g. a posted sign – “Whoever enters must first wipe his shoes.” This hang-up over our using a structurally masculine form is a very recent hang-up.

    Can a self be referred to by “It.” Sure. But the term would mislead, as we normally reserve “it” for non-selves.

  7. Fr Aidan Kimel
    November 26, 2013 @ 8:51 am

    Pingback: “Being, Beyond Being, or Oz the Great and Terrible” (http://goo.gl/uEyB2T)

  8. Michael
    November 25, 2013 @ 4:33 pm


    In an article titled “Aquinas and Finite Gods,” Thomist philospoher John F.X. Knasas disputes C. Hartshorne’s criticisms of the Thomist conception of God. At the end of the article, he defies Hartshorne to deal with Aquinas’ analysis of being (esse) that leads to ipse esse subsistens as the Creator and Sustainer of all other things, that leads in other words to “what all people call God.” Knasas writes,

    “Aquinas’ understanding of the deity is not arbitrary. It unrolls from his analysis of the esse of things. If Hartshorne wants to argue with the conception, he will have to begin by arguing with the analysis. This he nowhere does.”

    As one who has wrestled with the Thomist analysis of esse quite a bit, it frustrates me too that those who disagree with Thomism never deal with the analysis of esse. Like Hartshorne, they only attack the Thomist conception of God. I am all for attacking that conception, as I agree with you and the host of other “theistic personalists” that the conception is manifestly false, contradictory not only to what God has revealed about himself in the Scriptures but logically contradictory as well (e.g. a strictly immutable being identical to his acts cannot freely create, and that would make all existants necessary beings, or rather, necessary emanations of God). Nevertheless, it is remarkable that no one deals with the analysis of esse, for this is the only way, I believe, of possibly persuading Thomists themselves. As long as they believe their analysis of esse is correct, then they will deflect all attacks on the conception of God that follows from that analysis by invoking the analogy of being and the alleged mystery that creates.

    So that is why I asked you where you see their analysis of esse going wrong.


  9. Matthew Frost
    November 25, 2013 @ 10:01 am

    Still, I’ll bust you on saying that if God is a self, God must be a “He” rather than an “It.” The non-gendered pronoun does not of necessity connote things rather than selves. If you’re going to talk about intelligible perceptions vs. real mystical experience, dump the gendering of God in that bin right along with everything else.

  10. Matthew Frost
    November 25, 2013 @ 9:52 am

    Whoops, apparently no Greek rendering. “If there is a relevant category of “ta onta,”…”

  11. Matthew Frost
    November 25, 2013 @ 9:51 am

    Solid on “Being itself.” Too much neoplatonish garbage involved in ontologizing the entirely abstract signifiers of genres. If there is a relevant category of ?? ????, that’s what it is: a category. A drawer big enough to stick everything that exists inside.

    The Creator may be the origin of everything in that drawer, but such a god is certainly not identifiable with the drawer. At least, not of necessity. The missing middle there is an assumption about mechanism, and a false one in most cases. In any Abrahamic sense, for example, “Being itself” is simply the creation. The drawer is what it is as a holder of its contents. The abstract is what it is as a property (even a notional one) under which all covered particulars can be grouped, because they share it in a relevant sense.

    Of course, if you’re going to keep busting McGrath on “a being who is part of the universe,” you might want to note the false dichotomy that results from assuming that everything in the universe is “part of” it … or, properly, that it all belongs to a categorical unity. Otherwise we push towards the classic and bad assumptions that by being other, God must be external to creation, and that God and creation are inimical to one another. It is most certainly true that “the roots of ancient Israel’s concept of God are most certainly in a being who is active in the universe“—but that need never imply what McGrath has assumed from it.

  12. Michael
    November 21, 2013 @ 8:21 am


    I echo your assessment of the Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of God, but out of curiosity, where do you see their analysis of be-ing that deductively results in the conception of God as esse ipse subsistens going wrong?

    • Dale
      November 24, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

      Sorry – too big a question. We’d have to go argument by argument, and see where the false premise, or invalid inference is.

  13. Dale
    November 21, 2013 @ 7:31 am

    Hey Walter – thanks for the comment.

    “thoughts on the Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of God as Pure Actuality”

    Would it make an sense to ask such a being a question? Argue with it? Could it communicate its thoughts to us? Could such a being love humans so much, that he sent his Son to be a sacrifice for our sin?

    I take it, the answer is, No. Such a being can’t be affected, can’t respond. Can’t intend to communicate, literally can’t feel compassion or intentionally do anything. I take it, then, that such a “God” is a rival ultimate being to the God of the Bible, the heavenly Father.

    (Yes, I’m aware of Aquinas’s views on analogical predication.)

    Feser’s “theistic personalism” is just what most philosophers call “theism,” i.e. monotheism.

  14. Walter
    November 19, 2013 @ 10:59 am

    a god, a very powerful self, with powers to act against what seem to be nature’s normal course, is easy to conceive of. In contrast, “Being itself” is of dubious intelligibility.

    Catholic philosopher Ed Feser would likely consider your conception of God as falling into the error of theistic personalism.


    What are your thoughts on the Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of God as Pure Actuality?