Date of Award

Fall 1994

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The question addressed in this work is whether or not God can be understood as an absolutely simple being with no composition, whatsoever, including that of existence and essence. Given the classical understanding of God and metaphysics, is such a notion rationally defensible or are there fundamental inconsistencies in the doctrine? My motivation for this study is that the understanding of God as embodied in the natural theology of Classical Theism has recently come under attack. The traditionally accepted set of divine attributes such as infinity, omniscience, immutability and perfection have been challenged and, in many cases, rejected on philosophical grounds. At present, a number of thinkers challenging classical theism have come to the conclusion that at the root of all these philosophically untenable divine attributes is the fundamental and presupposed attribute of divine simplicity. The one thinker who is commonly viewed to epitomize the most sophisticated position on divine simplicity is St. Thomas Aquinas. The basic argument against simplicity in the current debate has been formulated by Alvin Plantinga who sees divine simplicity as based on a misguided attempt to maintain the aseity-sovereignty intuition about God's essence. Other contemporary thinkers such as Thomas Norris and Ronald Nash have supplemented Plantinga's critique with additional arguments. In their view, if divine simplicity can be rejected, so, too, can all the other divine attributes which rest upon it. This dissertation will consist of an analysis of current objections to divine simplicity. a systematic examination of the doctrine of divine simplicity as developed by Aquinas, and a Thomistic response to the objections. Primary focus will be given to the Thomistic doctrine of divine simplicity with an eye to the concerns raised by the current objectors. Three main questions of the dissertation are: (1) What is Aquinas' doctrine of divine simplicity? (2) What concerns do the objectors raise in regard to Aquinas' theory? and (3) Can Aquinas answer his critics on his own terms? These questions will require an extensive look at St. Thomas' writings with supplemental material from Thomistic commentators.



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