In the last three posts, I explained Richard’s argument for why there must be two distinct persons who charitably love each other. Here I want to raise some objections to three of Richard’s claims.
1. First, Richard thinks that a charitable disposition must be manifested or realized in order to be perfect:
(T4) For any person x, if x has a charitable disposition P, x is not perfect if x does not exercise P.
But why should this be so? God has lots of dispositions that aren’t exercised (at least not all the time), e.g., the ability to save sinners, create the world, become incarnate, etc., but those aren’t imperfect. Why should charity be any different?
2. Second, Richard claims that charitable love must be directed at a distinct person:
(T5) For any person x, if x has a charitable disposition P, x is not perfect if x does not exercise P on some person y, where x is not identical to y.
I have three problems with this.
(a) First, why can’t perfect charity be directed at oneself? Suppose that my high school basketball team lost the state championship because I missed the last minute jump shot, but after years of therapy, I finally forgave myself, got off the hooch, and finally started feeling better about myself. Wouldn’t I be treating myself charitably there?
(b) Besides, surely it begs the question to say that charitable love requires another. After all, we’re trying to prove that there are distinct persons in God, so we can’t just say ‘by definition, charity must be directed at a distinct person’. That would assume the conclusion right from the start.
In order to avoid begging the question, Richard would have to come up with a reason why charitably loving another would be better than charitably loving oneself. But that leads to my second problem with T5.
(c) What could a divine person gain from loving another that he wouldn’t get through self-love? Or as Ockham puts it, how could a divine person’s act of loving another divine person be any more or less perfect than their act of loving the divine essence itself? After all, God’s internal acts of love are supposed to all be equally perfect.
I can think of three reasons why loving another would be better than loving only oneself in the human case.
(i) First, perhaps it’s meritorious to care for those in need. But of course, a divine person is not in need of money, health care, and other such things.
(ii) Maybe charity is supposed to be better because it is ‘selfless’. But if that just means acting without regard for one’s own safety, reward, etc., then I can act on myself without regard for my own safety, reward, and so forth too. If ‘selfless’ just means ‘not the self’, then we’re begging the question again.
(iii) Third, maybe loving another gives me an experience that I don’t get from self love. For instance, by loving another, I gain perspective, I learn how someone else sees the world, I learn to be patient, etc. But aside from the fact that we might actually have those same experiences when loving oneself (think about deep, introspective therapy situations), how could this apply to the divine case? The divine persons know each other’s thoughts, so they couldn’t ‘gain perpective’ or anything like that.
Maybe we could say that the key here is reciprocation. For instance, the Father has the experience of ‘being loved by the Son’, and the Son does not have this experience. But surely the Son loves himself, so he too would have the experience of ‘being loved by the Son’. The only unique experience here would have to be ‘being loved by another’, but as I’ve already pointed out, simply asserting that it’s another begs the question.
So what (superior?) qualitative features would loving-another have that loving-oneself would not in God? If Richard can’t answer this, it seems to me that he’s begging the question.
3. Third, Richard claims that charitable love must be directed at a worthy recipient in order to be perfect:
(T6) For any person x, if x has a charitable disposition P, x is not perfect if x directs P at some person y, and y does not deserve it.
This seems to entail that God could not supremely love a creature, for creatures are not equal to God. Is that something Richard really wants to countenance?