Within contemporary philosophical theology the doctrine of divine simplicity has regained attention.1 The pertinent literature has increased by several new defenses of the doctrine.2 One of the more surprising, and troubling, aspects of the contemporary defenses amongst Christian philosophers and theologians is a seeming lack of understanding about how radical the doctrine of divine simplicity truly is. As such, I wish to do a few things in this paper. First, systematically articulate the doctrine of divine simplicity. Second, argue that divine simplicity is not a possible perfection. Third, offer some concluding remarks and highlight remaining issues that will need to be sorted out for the debate over simplicity to meaningfully continue.
Jeffrey Brower‘Making Sense of Divine Simplicity,’ in Faith and Philosophy25 (2008). Stephen Holmes ‘Something Much too Plain to Say: Towards a Defense of the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity’ NZSTH 43 (2001). Christopher Franks ‘The Simplicity of the Living God: Aquinas Barth and Some Philosophers’ Modern Theology 21 (2005). James E. Dolezal God Without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers 2011).
Kevin Timpe‘Truth Making and Divine Eternity’Religious Studies43 (2007) 299. Eleonore Stump Aquinas (New York: Routledge 2003) 96-7. Jeffrey E. Brower ‘Simplicity and Aseity’ in eds. Thomas P. Flint and Michael C. Rea The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (New York: Oxford University Press 2009) 105. Brian Davies ‘Simplicity’ in eds. Charles Taliaferro and Chad Meister The Cambridge Companion to Christian Philosophical Theology (New York: Cambridge University Press 2010) 37-40.
Richard CrossDuns Scotus on God (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing2005) 108-9. John F. Wipple ‘Metaphysics’ in ed. Norman Kreztmann and Eleonore Stump The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1993). Scott MacDonlad ‘The Divine Nature’ in ed. Eleonore Stump and Norman Kreztmann The Cambridge Companion to Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001).
See‘Absolute Simplicity,’ 369, and their ‘Simplicity Made Plainer,’Faith and Philosophy4 (1987). For a critique of their move see Katherin Rogers ‘The Traditional Doctrine of Divine Simplicity’ Religious Studies 32 (1996).
RogersPerfect Being Theology27. The types of objections she has in mind come from Alvin Plantinga and Thomas Morris. Alvin Planinga Does God Have a Nature? (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press 1980).Thomas Morris Anselmian Explorations: Essays in Philosophical Theology (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press 1987).
DolezalGod Without Parts205-6. Rogers The Anselmian Approach to God and Creation (Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press 1997) 54 and 68-9 Perfect Being Theology 33-6. However in personal correspondence Rogers has stated that she recognizes the problem and would like to figure out a way to avoid a modal collapse.
Michael J. DoddsThe Unchanging God of Love: Thomas Aquinas and Contemporary Theology on Divine Immutability 2nd Edition (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press2008) 175-80. Oddly Dodds claims that such counterfactual thinking has no place in theology after he articulates and endorses the medieval modal distinction between absolute and conditional necessity. If Dodds can use modality in theology then so can I.
For more on this see Thomas Senor‘The Compositional Account of the Incarnation’Faith and Philosophy24 (2007). Also Anna Marmodoro and Jonathan Hill (eds) The Metaphysics of the Incarnation (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011).