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. Aaron King
    September 15, 2016 @ 2:54 am

    In regard to the last question, which asks how this (meaning Subordinationist Unitarian theology) differs from the Eastern Orthodox view, I would say that as I understand it the EO Church agrees that the Son and the Spirit are “eternally caused” by the Father. However, they would deny that aseity determines superiority or inferiority, ontologically speaking. They would claim that just as my parents caused me to exist yet are not “more human” than me so the Father eternally causes the Son and Spirit to exist but is not “more God” (or “more divine” if you like) than they are. Obviously, Clarke disagreed with this as he (and many others) see aseity as being essential for truly being God. This is interesting because it appears that two groups who believe all of the same things about the Father, Son, and Spirit are drawing different metaphysical implications.

    • Dale Tuggy
      September 15, 2016 @ 9:54 am

      I think that must be right. They exclude aseity from being an essential divine attribute. I’m not sure not how clear current day EO theologians are about this, but this position was adopted by some of the Cappadocian fathers in reacting against their non-Nicene opponents, some of whom argued, in our terms, that deity implies aseity, and perhaps (their opponents accuse) even the one fundamental divine attribute (as if all others somehow derive from this one). Since we don’t have the writings of Eunomius, etc., I wonder if this last is a convenient slur, so the Nicenes can accuse them of claiming to understand the whole essence of God…

      In any case, as Bill Craig has pointed out, it is plausible that aseity is an essential divine attribute! We’re not talking about the generic concept of deity here, but the concept of a monotheistic god, the unique source of all else, but himself not needing any source.

      • Aaron King
        September 16, 2016 @ 2:51 pm

        I would be eager to see the philosophical arguments in a future post here (or maybe a link to Craig’s argument at least) to explore the difference in views about aseity. Thanks for your response, Dale.

  2. James Goetz
    September 13, 2016 @ 11:30 am

    One point in this discussion is that the concept of *human nature* is an abstract concept that defines typical human characteristics. Alternatively, the divine nature of the ancient creeds looks like a concrete object to me, but some say that the divine nature is not a concrete object. In any case, the concepts of *human nature* and *divine nature* need careful definition. Peace, Jim

    • Dale Tuggy
      September 15, 2016 @ 9:58 am

      Yes. But note that if “the divine nature” is concrete, it’ll be particular, and so not-shareable. This doesn’t bode well for any multi-self understanding of the Trinity.

      On the face of it, we wouldn’t want Christian theology to be committed to any specific theory of properties. But arguably, as philosopher Tim Pawl shows, classical catholic christology requires Jesus’s “human nature” to be a concrete object, a thing which can suffer and die, and so seemingly not a universal property. Maybe not a particular property either… it depends what you think those are.

      • James Goetz
        September 17, 2016 @ 11:52 pm

        I’ll rephrase my point: One point in this discussion is that the term *human nature* means “typical human characteristics.” Likewise, if we analogize *human nature* to the single nature/substance of the Trinity, then we are saying that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God because they share the same typical divine characteristics. However, this does not look like the divine nature/substance of the ancient creeds. In any case, the terms *human nature* and *divine nature* need careful definitions if we want to use *human nature* in Trinitarian analogy.

        Besides that, you say that a particular is not sharable. That is the case with classical identity. But classical identity has a huge problem because there is no consensus for the description of classical identity over time and change, except for the premise classical identity over time and change exists. In any case, there are legal examples of relative identity that describe the sharing of a particular that bodes well with a multi-self understanding of the Trinity (http://journalofanalytictheology.com/jat/index.php/jat/article/view/jat.2016-4.181919061425a/283).


  3. Raymond NAVARRO
    September 10, 2016 @ 4:58 pm

    My question is always: How can a being communicate its essential nature to another without also communicating those properties or attributes that are essential to that nature? Dogs beget dogs, dogs do not beget something that is almost a dog( if almost a dog, then its not a dog).

    It would seem that God communicating his nature to another is an impossibility, like creating a married bachelor, round square, etc. If we assume that God is simple, in the sense of not being made of parts, then even when God chooses to share even a little of his nature – everything should be communicated, making degreed divine natures an impossibility. If correct then this would pose problems for a subordinationist perspective as well

    • Paul Anchor
      September 10, 2016 @ 5:30 pm

      ” If correct then this would pose problems for a subordinationist perspective as well”

      And the creating “agent” theory of unitarianism.

      • Raymond NAVARRO
        September 10, 2016 @ 5:53 pm

        Help me out here Paul, what is the “Creating Agent Theory of Unitarianism”?

        • Sean Garrigan
          September 11, 2016 @ 9:09 am

          “Help me out here Paul, what is the ‘Creating Agent Theory of Unitarianism’?”

          I think he’s confusing nature with function, i.e. he’s assuming that if God can’t share his nature, then by that logic, God can’t share his functions. I think he has Arian-type Unitarians in mind with this objection. I’ll play Gilbert Ryle and note that this appears to involve a category error.

          It seems pretty clear to me, however, that God can and has empowered others to perform powerful works that are ultimately attributed to Him because He is the source of the power used. Those who perform such works act as his agents.


          • Rivers
            September 12, 2016 @ 12:25 pm


            Good points.

    • John B
      September 11, 2016 @ 5:08 am

      Hi Raymond, your question seems like a powerful one, and highlights the problem well. I think you are right, if we agree that God’s essential attributes are his alone, or that their composite entirety are his alone, then they or that couldn’t be shared, especially the idea of there only being one of him. I suppose I have two opposing concerns. Firstly I’d be concerned that such a reckoning simply doesn’t know how to factor in one who qualifies for the definitely articled Son. How could the One True God even have a son that is so intensely his? Christianity’s Christ is a total one-off scenario by definition. Secondly, however, I’d also be concerned about theologically bloated theories that are driven by the conclusion they strive to uphold.

      If the “paterderivationists” are right, and there are these different instances of the same nature, then we need to carefully articulate what that nature even is, right? Does divine simplicity really preclude the sharing of just some attributes? What about being a bearer of the name Yahweh? What about having authority to name creation?

      To return to the dogs analogy, Rover can beget another, Pup of Rover, Rover can die and Pup can resume all of Rover’s attributes (e.g. even being Owner’s favorite) and Rover’s nature without being Rover. The problem, to my mind, is that we have no way of distinguishing natures from human categories, or even knowing if things have natures. I’d say it is legitimate to hold that natures are simply constructs that are both human and imprecise, used to group things together, things of which there are many, not just one or two. If there were only one black hole in the universe to our knowledge (and presumably there was a time when that were the case), then we wouldn’t put that black hole in the black hole category/nature, because it’s the first one we know of – and it’s very weird and difficult to explain. But upon discovery of a second black hole, or at least an instance of something that reminds us of this first discovery, we can **start** to think about categories, which might later need to be shifted around.

      Sorry for an unfocussed response – I am combining lots of interest in the subject and extremely little sleep!

      • Raymond NAVARRO
        September 11, 2016 @ 8:52 pm

        Everything we know to exist has a nature. I assume this because we discover, recognize, come to know the existence of things thru their properties. Properties have owners, and those owners are the substances or natures of things. Therefore anything that exists has a nature- that would include God.

        I think everyone would agree that the divine nature is what it is essentially or necessarily. If we attempt to reduce the divine nature to some attenuated form( maybe instead of a “3 Omni-nature”, we have a “2 Omni-nature”)- in order to ensure its transmissibility, then in effect what we have done is to show that the remainder of Gods (the Father) attributes – the “leftovers”, would be considered accidental rather than essential.

        For example, I would assume that Gods(the Father) aseity might be one of those “leftover” accidental attributes that would not be included in this attenuated divine nature. If this was the case, then God would in some possible worlds be dependent on something else for his existence, which creates an incoherence- if he is supposed to God or the Greatest Conceivable Being.

        • John B
          September 12, 2016 @ 6:37 am

          Raymond: does an ecosystem have a nature?

          • Raymond NAVARRO
            September 12, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

            Good point! However this isn’t “ECOSYSTEMS. org”

            I think that most would agree that the statement “God is”, is an more than a simple existential statement. It is a statement -that not only does God exist, but he exists in a certain way. A statement that asserts the mind-independent existence of a a person or personal being( trinitarians) that exemplifies a number of Perfections (essential properties). I assume that most would agree that persons as such, are not merely be a collection of properties, but have a underlying nature, to which those properties are intimately associated – this would include God.

            This would place back where we started, with my original question.

            • John B
              September 13, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

              Hey Raymond. This isn’t “dogs.org” either! To make philosophical progress we need to appeal to examples. I could just have easily asked you if creatures (like dogs) have the nature of being a mammal? If it is essential to a mammal to…
              My point is that it is not so evident to me that there are these ultimate discrete categories you call natures. I have no disagreement with the issues you raise about the apparent impossibility of granting another aseity. My issue is that you do not frame the argument with a concession of the presumption of the existence of natures, or that you do not satisfactorily define in any kind of universally recognisable way quite what you mean by nature. So far I have understood from your definitions of nature, that it is the essential attributes of a thing, bearing in mind that this thing will also hold non-essential (not quite the same as accidental) attributes. The thing is a sort of composite of the non-essential and essential (nature) attributes. To my mind, even for physical things, where that “thing” might begin and end, might not be systematically or universally obvious. The very fact that most or all things are not pure expressions of their natures (ie without non-essential attributes), will necessarily cause the object to both belong to the constructed category/nature X and also to another: the nature of having attribute Y.
              Hope it’s clear. In summary: it’s not clear that natures are certainly not fallible human categories.

              • Raymond NAVARRO
                September 14, 2016 @ 9:35 am


                Very clear, I accept the rebuke.

                Yes, I a presupposed the existence of natures.It could be very well that these are merely constructs of the human mind- something like an electron (if electrons don’t actually exist).

                Its seems hard to imagine that persons and many other kinds of things are simply collections of properties with no underlying essence. I think that the postulation of this additional entity is the best explanation for several factors: identity thru time, causallity, contingency etc.

                This conversation has certainly created in me the desire to look into this subject further.


        • dokimazo
          September 12, 2016 @ 10:39 am

          I guess we may have to define the terms you are using to make your point. Divine Nature, for instance would not have to carry with it aseity. I think you presume to much. Nor would an Omni-nature be necessary or necessarily so in all respects. I think that is a grave presupposition that many make when discussing God-ship or deity. The Omni transferable fallacy as I would call it, is indeed a presupposition.
          When you said, for instance, that ‘in some possible worlds (God) would be dependent on something else for his existence, which creates an incoherence’. I think the incoherence only comes in defining deity or God-ship as you have admittedly defined it as, ‘The Greatest Conceivable Being in every possible World’, And in tying it to Divine Nature.

          • Raymond NAVARRO
            September 12, 2016 @ 3:49 pm


            A thing can only possess its properties in 2 ways: essentially or accidentally.
            Whatever properties are not essential to an entity, will be accidental. If we reduce the divine nature to some minimum threshold so that we can have a multiplicity of beings with a divine nature, then whatever additional properties the Divine beings possess – will be accidental.

            This would mean that in some possible worlds (PW’s)-God will not be omniscient, in some PW’s God will not omnipotent, in some PW’s God will not be omnipresent, in some PW’s God will not so much as simply exist (if necessary existence is not included in this diminished divine nature)., etc., etc… If this thesis were correct, then for all we know, God might not exist in this World, It might just be a necessary truth that contingent things exist- something exists in every world, but no one thing exists in every world.

            Whatever “God” is built from this diminished divine nature, it does not seem to be the God of classical theism

            • dokimazo
              September 12, 2016 @ 4:28 pm

              Here we go again. What is essential is probably a point we may disagree on. I do not disagree necessarily on essential nor accidental properties. What I believe you are saying is that God in any world would have to assume aseity . Please help me here. Please define God or better yet, what does it mean to be God, or a God. If I understand you correctly it’s all God or no God. At least in your understanding of Theism or monotheism.

    • dokimazo
      September 11, 2016 @ 6:33 am

      Hi Raymond;
      Communicating the essential nature of one to the other does not IMO require one to communicate age, power or other attributes. Take for instance the dog illustration. Yes they may all have the nature of a dog but not the same age, strength or other non transferable attributes.