Joseph Jedwab

Originally from Montreal in Canada, I lived in the UK for most of my life. My wife and I live in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, where I teach philosophy at the University there. My doctoral work was on the metaphysics of the Trinity and Incarnation, in which I argue for a particular account of both doctrines. My supervisor was Richard Swinburne and my examiners were Brian Leftow and Howard Robinson.


  1. Dale
    January 18, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

    Hey Joseph – good questions.

    I don’t see how one’s own perfect goodness per se would be a motive to create. Perhaps you mean, that it’s part of perfect goodness to want there to be more goodness than there is. That sounds right to me. But if you’re perfectly good and you have no motive not to increase the goodness, I’m not sure it follows that you do.

    I’m not sure I can conceive of any reason for God not to create anything at all. I can think of plenty of reasons not to create beings with free will, but as to not creating period, I don’t know. With beings like us, we always have this motive to not do something – that it takes effort, and expends energy we might use elsewhere (or energy being finite). Those don’t apply to God, I assume. But, I’m reluctant to conclude that in all possible worlds, God creates something or other.

    I can think of reasons, for any possible creation, God would have for making it – they would be the reasons he’d have to make other creations, I mean, reasons to create differently, in ways logically contrary to the first. e.g. In deciding to make a cosmos with humans being the only beings made in his image (let’s assume that’s so), he had to forego making a cosmos in which Smurfs are the only ones.

    On generation and will: I know that for Swinburne, generation and procession result from or consist in choices or acts of will. It’s less clear to me that this was the case with patristic theologians – many refuse in principle to say what “generation” amounts to. What I meant to say was that people who theorize about generation and spiration don’t mean it to be a free act – one such that it’s possible that the generator didn’t generate, etc. That, I think, holds across the board.

    On perfect goodness – I just think of it as unblemished moral character – unlimited propensities to do the good and the right. I think this entails lacking any desire to do what is overall bad or wrong, and that entails never doing what is overall bad or wrong. I reviewed Swinburne’s account of divine goodness in The Christian God, pp. 135-6, and I don’t like some things about it, such as his claim that God has powers that he doesn’t exercise in any possible world, or that “God’s perfect goodness is a matter of his doing all acts of essence and no overall bad acts.” But I don’t now have any equally developed account to offer in its place.


  2. Joseph Jedwab
    January 16, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

    1. I agree God or the Father is not obliged to create or generate. And I guess it needn’t manifest a defect of moral character such as greed or stinginess. But we might think that perfect goodness gives him a prima facie reason to create or generate. So if he could fail to do so, we must trace this to some perfection of moral character or some good he forgoes if he creates or generates. I think there really is something to Norman Kretzmann’s discussion of the Pseudo-Dinoysian principle that goodness is self-diffusive of being. But I know well that others just don’t see it.

    2. I disagree. I think the generation of a divine person does indeed involve the will. Though this is a case where the will inevitably acts. For generation is causal. And everything a divine person causes involves the will.

    3. What do you think perfect goodness consists in? Do you think Swinburne’s definition is a good approximation to the truth?


  3. Dale
    January 11, 2010 @ 8:48 am

    Joseph, I think the line you’re urging is charitable and reasonable. It’s not going to be a surprise that Swinburne better develops this line of argument.

    It strikes me as odd that Richard of St. Vic keeps announcing that he’s successfully proven what he set out to prove, and then he keeps taking fresh runs at things.

    It seems to me that the aspect of perfection involved in this ch. is “supreme benevolence”. There’s an implicit argument here that (per impossibile) any divine being who didn’t “share in common the entire substance of its fullness” would be stingy.

    This is not easy to see – and we theists ought to be careful with arguments like this. I’ve heard atheists object: God could have made the cosmos better in way X (and X here is something like, the guy talking having a better job or better love life!) and moreover, he could have done so without any cost to himself. But, I say, he’s not obligated to do all that he can, or the best that he can. Nor does it show any “stinginess”.

    Now, existing alone, owing nothing to anyone, including himself, would a divine person be “stingy” to not create or otherwise produce a lovee? I don’t see why.

    Further, the generation of a divine person isn’t supposed to involve the will of the generator – so I’m not sure why there’s this worry about the vice of stinginess – that is matter of the will, right?

    Put another way: it’d be incoherent for us theists to say that “supreme benevolence” means giving all one can give. But then, why would the kind of benevolence God has *imply* his maximal self-sharing with an equal?


  4. Joseph Jedwab
    January 9, 2010 @ 8:47 am

    Hi JT! Yes, it is a good point to bring up again. And it is a good one to raise against the Victorine, but not I think against the Oxonian. Swinburne explicitly raises the objection and explicitly provides a reply. You may, of course, disagree with the reply. But I don’t think this in particular is a good objection to Swinburne’s view.

    In the past, I tried to qualify on behalf of St Victor to provide room to escape this objection: namely, that a perfect being must share all she has that she *can* share. Then St Victor needs a further argument to claim that a perfect being can’t share perfect love with a fourth perfect being. No doubt, in St Victor’s mind, this comes down to matters of individuation of divine persons.

    I think my interpretation leaves room for St Victor to say that sharing of perfect nature is needed and sharing of perfect love is also needed, but sharing of love with three for a fourth is not needed. I don’t pretend he’s argued for this. But I think it is at least defensible.


  5. JT Paasch
    January 9, 2010 @ 6:39 am

    We’ve already mentioned this, I think, but it seems like it’s a good time to bring it up again. And this is, of course, a medieval argument, but it is also an argument that has been raised more recently against Swinburne’s view, namely this: if the two need to share their love with a third, then why shouldn’t three share their love with a fourth, and so on _ad infinitum_?


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