Divine Simplicity

Home > Philosophy of Religion Articles > Divine Simplicity
  • File

    Brower, Jeffrey E.

     (286K)

    Simplicity and Aseity

    "There is a traditional theistic doctrine, known as the doctrine of divine simplicity, according to which God is an absolutely simple being, completely devoid of any metaphysical complexity...I take the first steps necessary for restoring the doctrine of divine simplicity to its former glory, arguing that its widespread rejection in contemporary philosophy and theology is certainly premature, perhaps ultimately unwarranted. There can be no question that this doctrine comes with substantial and controversial commitments in metaphysics. But in each case, I shall argue, these commitments are perfectly respectable, having been ably defended and taken very seriously on independent grounds in the contemporary literature. If my argument is successful, it will be clear that this doctrine—together with the conception of divine aseity that traditionally motivates it—deserves more attention than it has yet received at the hands of contemporary philosophers and theologians."
  • File

    Brower, Jeffrey E.

     (310K)

    Making Sense of Divine Simplicity

    "...[I]f contemporary philosophers want to understand the doctrine of divine simplicity, they need only enter imaginatively into that theoretical account according to which the entities required for the truth of predications and for the referents of their corresponding abstract expressions are truthmakers. However, once we have entered this framework—and I don’t think this requires too much imagination, given the centrality of the notion of truthmaker in much contemporary metaphysics—it turns out that we are in a position not only to appreciate the coherence and the plausibility of the doctrine of divine simplicity, but also a good bit of medieval metaphysics and philosophy of language as well."
  • File

    O'Connor, Timothy

     (60K)

    Simplicity and Creation

    "According to many philosophical theologians, God is metaphysically simple: there is no real distinction among His attributes or even between attribute and existence itself. Here, I consider only one argument against the simplicity thesis. Its proponents claim that simplicity is incompatible with God's having created another world, since simplicity entails that God is unchanging across possible worlds. For, they argue, different acts of creation involve different willings, which are distinct intrinsic states. I show that this is mistaken, by sketching an adequate account of reasons-guided activity that does not require distinct intrinsic states of willing corresponding to each possible act of creation."
  • File

    Pruss, Alexander R.

     (126K)

    On Three Problems of Divine Simplicity

    "The Fourth Lateran Council teaches that God is a 'substantia seu natura simplex omnino'—an 'altogether simple substance or nature'—and the First Vatican Council reiterated the teaching. The doctrine of divine simplicity is at the center of Thomas’s natural theology, since it is essentially involved in his attempt to show that the First Cause that he has proved to exist in the Five Ways has the appropriate divine attributes. The doctrine claims that there is no ontological composition in God of any sort, whether of matter and form, or of essence and accident, or of this attribute and that attribute considered as ontologically distinct. The doctrine is a traditional part of Christianity and Judaism, though I understand that Islam may have ultimately rejected it. Divine simplicity, like the complementary doctrine of the Trinity, leads to intellectual difficulties. I will talk about the three most major ones that arise within the context of natural theology."
  • File

    Sudduth, Michael C.

     (118K)

    St. Thomas Aquinas: The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity

    "Having established that there is a First Existent (an est), Thomas turns to the question of the way in which the First Existent exists so that an understanding may be gained of what the First Existent is (quid est). Here Thomas follows the common Aristotelian method of scientific treatment, first an est then quid est. But Aquinas states that de deo scire non possumus quid sit, sed quid non sit. Consequently, the task of the theologian will be to consider the ways in which God does not exist. Thus Thomas embarks on the via negationis, denying of God things which are true of the creature, the core of which is the doctrine of divine simplicity."
  • File

    Vallicella, William F.

     (167K)

    Divine Simplicity

    "According to the classical theism of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas and their adherents, God is radically unlike creatures in that he is devoid of any complexity or composition, whether physical or metaphysical. Besides lacking spatial and temporal parts, God is free of matter/form composition, potency/act composition, and existence/essence composition. There is also no real distinction between God as subject of his attributes and his attributes. God is thus in a sense requiring clarification identical to each of his attributes, which implies that each attribute is identical to every other one. God is omniscient, then, not in virtue of instantiating or exemplifying omniscience — which would imply a real distinction between God and the property of omniscience — but by being omniscience. And the same holds for each of the divine omni-attributes: God is what he has...This is the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS)."