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.

9 Comments

  1. JT Paasch
    April 15, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

    Hey Dale,

    On a second read through these comments, I think you and I agree. I meant to suggest in my first comment that perfection is not a function merely of nature, and this is especially so in the divine case, where the persons have other essential constituents (e.g., fatherhood, sonship) besides the divine essence.

  2. Dale
    April 15, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

    Thanks, Scott – I’ll look for that in Anselm.

  3. Scott
    April 13, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    @Dale.

    For my part, I know that Anselm certainly makes a distinction between ‘pure perfections’ and ‘qualified perfections’. I also know that Henry of Ghent uses this distinction quite a bit, and so too does Duns Scotus. I’ll have to glance through my notes on Books 4 and 5 to see if I noted the distinction in Richard’s De Trin.

    The distinction is in fact made by Anselm (_Monologion_), and it is indubitably known by Richard. For Richard styles himself after Anselm’s use of ‘necessary reasons’ to argue for a Christian doctrine, here, for the Trinity of divine persons. I’ll have a look through and get back to ya’ll.

  4. JT Paasch
    April 13, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

    Hi Dale,

    “Why accept that level of perfection is a function solely of a thing’s nature?”

    Well, I would agree with that. But I would think that for many of these medieval cats, perfection is at least partly a function of a thing’s nature. Maybe Scott can tell us if that’s right for Richard. Maybe it’s not, I have no idea.

    “And IF he’s assuming strong simplicity, then your analogy won’t be right – F & S will share one component, but differ in others. Therefore, neither is simple.”

    I’m not sure I’m tracking with you. Could you say more?

  5. Dale
    April 13, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

    Scott – you’re suggesting that it’s better for the Father to be a father than not, but it’s not better for the other members of the Trinity to be a father than not. If they in sense are, or are constituted by the relations, I wonder if these counterfactuals are even true…

    Sort of like: if you were me, you’d like the Dallas Cowboys. That can seem plausible… but wait, there’s no possible world in which you are me, so the intuition melts away. What is instead true is that if you were very very like me, you’d like the Cowboys.

    Do you recall where in the tradition this “pure” vs. “qualified” perfection comes in?

  6. Dale
    April 13, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

    “It would appear, then, that the Father and Son must be at least somewhat different in kind (just as our chocolate and toffee cakes are at least somewhat different in kind).
    Does this mean that the Father and Son are equal in perfection? Sure, they share the divine nature”

    JT – that comes back to issues in my post though. Why accept that level of perfection is a function solely of a thing’s nature? And IF he’s assuming strong simplicity, then your analogy won’t be right – F & S will share one component, but differ in others. Therefore, neither is simple. Scott – from what he says elsewhere, is he committed only to the simplicity of the divine nature, but not to the simplicity of the persons, or indeed of the Trinity? (Contra the way Cross reads many ancient and medieval trinitarians?)

  7. Scott
    April 12, 2010 @ 11:51 am

    Or, a next question would be: what kind of perfection is it _to be a father_ and likewise _to be a Son_. Here are some options:

    1. To be a father (or a son) is a _pure perfection_. All things considered, it’s better to be a father (or a son) than not be a father (or a son).

    2. To be a father (or a son) is a _qualified perfection_. Given a certain state of affairs, it’s better to be a father (or a son) than not to be a father (or a son).

    It seems to me that if we ask the question “are the Father and Son equal in perfection?’ then we must get clear on what sort of perfection we are talking about. If we are assuming (1), then we’ll get one kind of answer. If we are assuming (2), then we’ll get another kind of answer.

    It also seems to me that lots of (classical) theologians do not think that (1) ought to be assumed when we ask the question “are the Father and Son equal in perfection?” They often say, “personal properties are not pure perfections such that a divine person lacks a certain pure perfection”. On (1), it looks like the Son is less perfect than the Father because the Son lacks something that it is better to have than not have, i.e. being a father (or, the father). Likewise, if we suppose that _any_ personal property is a pure perfection, then the other two persons will lack something that it is better to have than not have.

    So, it seems to me that (2) is the more suitable route to go. In which case, the question “are the Father and Son equal in perfection” is somewhat deflated. For, it’s better for the Father to be Father, etc. Put otherwise, it’s better for the Father _not to be from another person_ than for the Father _to be from another person_. A similar move applies to the other persons.

    Consequently, it would seem that the question “are the Father and Son equal in perfection?” is not as worrisome as it might first appear.

  8. JT Paasch
    April 11, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

    Hi Dale,

    You make an important distinction at the beginning of your post: it’s one thing to say that deity is just as perfect as itself, but it’s another thing to say that the persons are just as perfect as each other.

    Let’s assume that different kinds of constituents result in different kinds of things, perhaps analogous to the way that adding chocolate to one batch of cake batter and toffee to another results in different kinds of cakes, namely a chocolate cake and a toffee cake.

    Now let’s apply this to the Godhead. Although the Father and Son share the same divine nature, they have different personal constituents, i.e., fatherhood and sonship. Of course, those are different kinds of relationships, for being a father is not the same thing as being a son.

    So although the Father and Son have their nature in common (just as our chocolate and toffee cakes have their basic batter in common), they don’t have their personal constituents in common (just as our cakes don’t have their flavorings in common). It would appear, then, that the Father and Son must be at least somewhat different in kind (just as our chocolate and toffee cakes are at least somewhat different in kind).

    Does this mean that the Father and Son are equal in perfection? Sure, they share the divine nature, so they at least have that much in common. But they also have further essential constituents that differ, so it seems clear to me that their equality qua divine nature is one thing, but their equality qua personal constituents is another thing altogether.

  9. Scott
    April 11, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

    My intuition is to interpret this passage within the context of other things Richard says in De Trin., esp. Books 4 and 5. That said, I take it that here Richard is focusing on equality of nature. Even though my dad is .. my dad, he’s not greater than me in the sense that’s he’s a better kind of being than I am.

    I believe JT already discussed this in an earlier post ( http://trinities.org/blog/archives/875 ), as did I ( http://trinities.org/blog/archives/903 ).

    In order to know what Richard thinks about the components/constituents/truth-makers of the divine persons, we’d need to look beyond Book 3. I think the point of Book 3 is to show _that_ there must be three persons. But to see how this is cashed out metaphysically– Richard moves beyond the arg. from love/charity to diverse origins of persons and the personal properties.

    There’s an amusing speech-act philosophy style argument later (in book 4, if I remember correctly) to prompt us to have certain metaphysical intuitions.