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9/10/2018 2:17 am  #11


Re: On philosophical objections to the Chalcedonian Incarnation doctrine

Johannes wrote:

The text in italics is definitely not my position, and I wonder on what basis you thought it was. Maybe my statement "the explanation of the Hypostatic Union as that between Subsistent Existence (or Act of Being) and contingent human essence" left some room for misunderstanding, and I should have said "the explanation of the Hypostatic Union as that between a contingent human essence and Subsistent Existence (or Act of Being) in place of ordinary contingent existence".

This is a slip on my part. I should have written “between existence and contingent natures”. (On Vallicella's account, this just is the relation between God and contingent natures.)

As long as you postulate that contingent existence and contingent essence are really distinct, you can state that the relation between the Son and Jesus' human nature is the relation between existence (in this case Subsistent Existence) and contingent essence, without the need to articulate precisely what the relation between existence and essence in contingent beings is.

But I've just shown, by pointing to various accounts of existence, that this isn't so. In fact, on every account I can think of, the relation between existence and essence doesn't yield what you need for an account of the Incarnation; and so a sort of general account of the Incarnation based the real distinction isn't enough.

 

9/10/2018 2:56 pm  #12


Re: On philosophical objections to the Chalcedonian Incarnation doctrine

OK, I get it. Since some of the specific theories of existence which are in principle compatible with a real distinction between existence and essence do not lend themselves to explain the Incarnation, you ask me to come up with at least one specific theory of existence which does. Right now I can think of one: existential Thomism [1]. I will summarize below my understanding thereof, which may be somewhat inaccurate since I am not a scholar of philosophy.

Each contingent entity consists of a contingent act of being ("actus essendi") bound to, and bounded by, the entity's contingent essence [2].

Each divine Person Is the (one and only) Subsistent Act of Being, Unbounded Existence not limited by an essence distinct from it, in a particular mode.

In the Incarnacion God [3], at the time of creating a particular human essence, instead of uniting it to a created contingent act of being, united it to the Son as to its act of being (speaking strictly, Act of Being) [4]. Thus, since that moment the Son is the Subject of that particular human essence, which subsists in Him [5].


Notes

[1] Of which Gilson should not be taken as the infallible prophet. E.g. the second statement may sound in Gilson's works as if God has no essence, which is not the case. This is discussed at length in Dewan (1999), "Etienne Gilson and the actus essendi".

[2] Notably, Miller's property theory of existence holds the opposite, which is plainly wrong. Quoting from LaZella 2010 doctoral dissertation "Thomas Aquinas, the real distinction between esse and essence, and overcoming the conceptual imperialism", p. 60 (emphasis added):

LaZella (2010) wrote:

For a contemporary account of “existence as a property,” see Barry Miller, The Fullness of Being: A New Paradigm for Existence (South Bend: University of Notre Dame, 2002). His use of the term “existence,” as he admits, is synonymous with “actuality.” See Ibid. 82 fn. 1. He argues that instead of thinking of existence as “inherence in” (e.g., “Existence inheres in Caesar), we should say “bounded by” (e.g., “Caesar is bounded by existence”) as a more suitable metaphor (Ibid. 97).

[3] According to the dogma of the unity of the divine operations ad extra, the work of the creation of Jesus' human essence and its simultaneous union to the Son as its Act of Being was common to the three divine Persons acting as one efficient cause, which is reflected in the NT text by the attribution of that work, in different passages, to either the Father (Heb 10:5), the Son (Phil 2:7), or the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18-20; Lk 1:35), the last attribution being the one adopted in the Apostles' and Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds.

[4] Given that the (one and only) Subsistent Act of Being does not exist apart from the three divine Persons, in pre-Personal or impersonal mode, it is impossible that the Subsistent Act of Being in pre-Personal or impersonal mode be the act of being of an assumed created essence. Only the Subsistent Act of Being in a particular mode can be the act of being of an assumed created essence. But the Subsistent Act of Being in a particular mode is the respective divine Person. Thus, the divine Person Who assumed a created essence is the act of being (speaking strictly, Act of Being) of that assumed essence.

[5] I removed all mention of "bounded" from the 3rd point after consulting a professional Thomistic philosopher, who observed that "we cannot say that the Subsistent Act of Being has become a limited, bounded, act due to the fact of its actualizing a finite essence. Finite essences limit, bound, finite acts of being, not the Subsistent Act of Being, Which actualizes Christ's human nature without being received in it, like finite acts of beings are received in their respective finite essences."
 

Last edited by Johannes (9/15/2018 10:13 pm)

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9/10/2018 5:13 pm  #13


Re: On philosophical objections to the Chalcedonian Incarnation doctrine

This post is a digression about a couple of related points.

First, just as scientists are bounded by empirical observations when developing a scientific theory, Christian philosophers are bounded by Christian faith when developing a philosophical theory.

Let's take as example the gravitational wave (GW) signal GW170817. In contrast with previous GW signals which had been the result of black hole mergers, and therefore had not been accompanied by concomitant electromagnetic (EM) radiation signals, this was the result of the merger of two neutron stars, and was accompanied by the gamma-ray burst signal GRB 170817A, which was detected beginning 1.7 seconds after the GW merger signal and lasted for 2 seconds. The origin of the signals was the galaxy NGC 4993, located 140 Mly away.

The relevance of the simultaneous observation of both signals is that it ruled out a number of  alternative theories of gravity ("alternative" with respect to General Relativity) in which GWs and EM waves travel at different speeds. Therefore, if after GW170817 a theoretical physicist keeps proposing one of those theories, he will no longer be considered an academically respectable scientist but a mathematically proficient crackpot.

Turning now to philosophy, for a Christian philosopher the data from divine Revelation play the same role as that which the data from empirical observations play in physical science. Just as any scientifically respectable theoretical physicist would check if a theory he is developing is consistent with recorded observations before publishing it, any theologically respectable Christian philosopher should check if a theory he is developing is consistent with divine Revelation before publishing it.

As there are two fundamental Christian doctrines, the consubstantial Trinity and the Incarnation, and as any Christian philosopher should know that the main philosophical explanation of the latter is by stating that the Person of the Son is the Act of Being of Jesus' human essence, any Christian philosopher who develops a theory of existence should check whether his theory is consistent with that explanation and then decide to publish or scrap it based on the result of that check, in the first case showing explicitely in his publication that his theory explains the Hypostatic Union. Just as any theoretical physicist who develops an alternative theory of gravity should check whether his theory is consistent with GWs and EM waves travelling at the same speed and then decide to publish or scrap it based on the result of that check, in the first case showing explicitely in his publication that his theory predicts it [1].

Second, it can be easily shown that the property theory of contingent existence is wrong. P is a property of contingent entities iff different entities can have different values of P, including the case of not having P (such as physical extension in the case of spiritual entities). But all contingent entities have contingent existence. Therefore contingent existence is not a property.

If someone replies to the above that today mammoths do not have contingent existence, I reply that they do not have essence either. An essence of a mammoth is only in an existing mammoth, and today there is no such entity. What there is in some human intellects is a more or less abridged representation of the form of a mammoth, while in the divine Intellect there is a perfect pre/re/presentation.


[1] As did the authors of this and this still potentially viable alternative theories of gravity.
 

Last edited by Johannes (9/10/2018 5:15 pm)

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9/10/2018 9:11 pm  #14


Re: On philosophical objections to the Chalcedonian Incarnation doctrine

Johannes wrote:

Each contingent entity consists of a contingent act of being ("actus essendi") which is bounded, limited, by the entity's contingent essence [2].

God, each divine Person, is the Subsistent Act of Being, Unbounded Existence not limited by an essence distinct from it.

In the Incarnation, the Son bounded [3] Himself as the Act of Being of a contingent essence, at the moment of the creation of said essence, while of course remaining Unbounded Existence.

I'll try to check out LaZella's dissertation when I get some more time, and see if I have anything to say in reply. I'd like to get a clearer sense of what he means by “bounded”.

[2] Notably, Miller's property theory of existence holds the opposite, which is plainly wrong. Quoting from LaZella 2010 doctoral dissertation "Thomas Aquinas, the real distinction between esse and essence, and overcoming the conceptual imperialism", p. 60 (emphasis added)

Miller ends up saying that a's existence property-instance precedes its existence, but that a precedes the property-instance in individuation and individuates it. (He does this because, otherwise, the essence a has to exist before its existence property to instantiate it.) I'm not sure if that counts as the essence limiting the property-instance in the relevant respect.

 

9/10/2018 9:13 pm  #15


Re: On philosophical objections to the Chalcedonian Incarnation doctrine

Turning now to philosophy, for a Christian philosopher the data from divine Revelation play the same role as that which the data from empirical observations play in physical science. Just as any scientifically respectable theoretical physicist would check if a theory he is developing is consistent with recorded observations before publishing it, any theologically respectable Christian philosopher should check if a theory he is developing is consistent with divine Revelation before publishing it.

I'm actually happy to hear you say this. I think it captures an important truth about the Christian view of the relation between philosophy and religion. Philosophy is religion's handmaid. The truths of religion are accepted in a sense prior to doing philosophy. (I'm not sure they're irrational so much as pre-rational, though the latter may be a species of the former.) Posters here often strike me as very nervous about this aspect of Christianity (a sign of the times, I suppose).

I'm, of course, not a Christian philosopher. (I'm sympathetic.)

Second, it can be easily shown that the property theory of contingent existence is wrong. P is a property of contingent entities iff different entities can have different values of P, including the case of not having P (such as physical extension in the case of spiritual entities). But all contingent entities have contingent existence. Therefore contingent existence is not a property.

I think Miller is going to deny that P is a property of contingent entities iff different entities can have different values of P or not have it, and say that existence is an essential property of all existing natures (entities), rather than an accidental one.

Here is an argument against the property theory of existence. (i) if existence is a property, it's either an accidental property or an essential (non-accidental) property; (ii) if existence is an accidental property, an entity a can (by definition) exist without instantiating an existence property, and this is absurd; (iii) if existence is an essential property, then God can't destroy an entity a's existence property without destroying a; hence (iv), rather than a losing its existence in virtue of losing its existence property, a loses its existence property in virtue of losing its existence (and this shows that a's existence is other than its existence property); hence (v), existence is neither an accidental nor an essential property; hence (vi), existence isn't a property. I wonder whether a similar argument can be raised against the existential Thomist view based on a distinction between accidental and essential constituents.

 

9/10/2018 9:17 pm  #16


Re: On philosophical objections to the Chalcedonian Incarnation doctrine

Well, I'll come back to this thread in a couple months (late October – early November).

 

9/15/2018 12:10 am  #17


Re: On philosophical objections to the Chalcedonian Incarnation doctrine

John West wrote:

I'll try to check out LaZella's dissertation when I get some more time, and see if I have anything to say in reply. I'd like to get a clearer sense of what he means by “bounded”.

John, please note that, after you quoted my post #12 in your response, I changed substantially the text of the 3rd point, specifically removing all mention of "bounded" (which BTW had got there only from me, not from LaZella's dissertation). I explained the reason for the change in note [5].

 

Last edited by Johannes (9/15/2018 10:15 pm)

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