Divine simplicity: Aquinas and the current debate
This dissertation examines problems concerning divine simplicity. Classical theism maintains in the doctrine of simplicity that God lacks any composition of physical parts, metaphysical principles or logically distinct elements. Thomas Aquinas' sophisticated elaboration of divine simplicity has recently come under attack by prominent thinkers, most notable of which is Alvin Plantinga. These objectors note both instances of incoherence within the doctrine of simplicity as well as its incompatibility with Scripture and its depiction of God. The procedure of the dissertation is first to present the current objections raised against divine simplicity. Second, the Thomistic doctrine of simplicity will be examined in terms of ontology, knowledge and language. Third, a response to the objections will be attempted in light of the Thomistic basis for simplicity. A variety of Aquinas' works are examined in presenting his theory of divine simplicity as well as his views on the metaphysical understanding of God, the possibility of knowing God and how to predicate about God. The findings of the dissertation are varied. Surprisingly, Aquinas anticipates a set of current objections and has sufficient answers for them. Another set of objections presents considerable difficulties for Aquinas. In order to answer these objections, Aquinas offers a sophisticated theory of linguistic signification. He also notes a difference between the modes of human conception and of the object, while maintaining valid cognition. Perhaps the most controversial is a third set of objections concerning the real relations of God to creatures. Counter-intuitively, Aquinas defends simplicity by asserting that any real relations of God to creatures exist solely in the mind. Finally, Aquinas describes an absolutely simple God through analogical predication which acknowledges both the causal immanence and the ontic transcendence of God.
Vincent Michael Dever,
"Divine simplicity: Aquinas and the current debate"
(January 1, 1994).
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