Thursday, July 21, 2011

Special Ed for Dale Tuggy


Your position is that the IT isn't the ET? Thus, there are at least two Trinities, and at least six divine persons?

I see it’s now necessary to tutor Tuggy in the rudiments of Christian theism. The “economic Trinity” is a traditional designation for the Triune God’s relation to the world. A synonym for the creative, redemptive, miraculous, and providential deeds of the Father, Son, and Spirit in their respective economic roles.

But what God does is not identical with what God is. For one thing, not only is there all that God actually does, but all that God might have done, but refrained from doing. God’s counterfactual power. Likewise, God’s making Adam and Eve is not identical with God’s omniscience. God’s contingent, in ad extra works are not conterminous with God himself.

That doesn’t generate two Trinities unless you’re as clueless as Dale Tuggy.

I said:

Far from safeguarding unitarianism, Tuggy’s combined assumptions yields serial polytheism. Every time God changes, you have a new and different God.

To which Tuggy responds:

Conclusion jumping is fun!

Needless to say, my conclusion came on the heels of a supporting argument. Is Tuggy so spacey that he doesn’t know the difference between “conclusion jumping” and a reasoned conclusion?

Yes, all this as-it-is vs. as-it-appears business comes from Kant. It is notoriously deployed, e.g. by John Hick in his theory of religious pluralism. Distinguished Reformed Christian philosopher George Mavrodes has pointed out a crucial ambiguity of Hick's lingo in an excellent essay called "Polytheism." Many non-Kantian philosophers think this sort of talk tends to confuse things - e.g. Kant's noumena (things as they are) vs. phenomena (things as they appear) - are these one domain of objects or two - interpreters of Kant go round and round on that.

i) I see. Theologians prior to Kant (e.g. Aquinas) didn’t draw ad intra/extra distinctions with reference to God.

One wonders if Tuggy conducts his classroom lectures in clown makeup.

ii) Tuggy also confuses the ad intra/extra distinction in Christian theism with the appearance/reality distinction in certain theories of sensory perception (e.g. indirect realism), as if that’s somehow interchangeable.

I'd be careful not to confuse this with the essential vs. non-essential property distinction. But yes, in principle a unitarian could employ both.

Since I didn’t confuse them, I don’t have to be careful about not confusing them. But it’s useful to see Tuggy’s grudging concession.

No, nothing I've said makes change impossible, for God or for anything else.

Before we proceeds, let’s set the stage. The question at issue is whether diachronic identity (i.e. identity through time) meets the stringent conditions of numerical identity, as Tuggy defines it (a la Leibniz). And the problem is especially acute for Tuggy, given his temporalist view of divine eternalit–in tandem with his Leibnizian definition of numerical identity. For Tuggy’s God is a diachronic entity.

Is persistence (with attendant change) is compatible with numerical identity? That’s the question.

Coincidentally, I just posted on = today, and this topic comes up.

Let’s have a little look-see, shall we?

In the italicized line, I’m applying something called Leibniz’s Law, or the Indiscernibility of Identicals. I sometimes put this roughly as, some x and some y can be numerically identical only if whatever is true of one is true of the other. That’s a sloppy way to put it.
In logic, a more precise way of stating it (used e.g. by Richard Cartwright) is:
(x)(y)(z) ( x= y only if (z is a property of x if and only if z is a property of y))
Literally: for any three things whatever, the first is identical to the second only if the third is a property of the first just in case the third is a property of the second.
The basic intuition is that things are as they are, and not some other way. So if x just is (is numerically the same as) y, then it can’t be that x and y qualitatively differ. This seems undeniable.
There are a few problems, though, with the above formula, which any person trained in philosophy may spot.
First, don’t things change? e.g. Last year you weighed 200, and now you weight 210 lbs. But does this mean that the you of 2010 is not numerically the same as the you of 2011? Ridiculous! Things can qualitatively change while remaining numerically the same. That’s just common sense.

That’s it? “Ridiculous”? “That’s just common sense”?

Tuggy carries on and on and on about “absolute identity,” attacking Trinitarians for (allegedly) flouting Leibniz’s law; he wraps himself in the mantle of logic, but then, when confronted with a standard objection regarding diachronic identity, what do we get? Does he attempt a philosophically rigorous response? No. We’re treated to this rhetorical cop-out.

Why do philosophers engage in intricate debates over the respective merits of endurantism and perdurantism if they could simply exclaim, “That’s just common sense!”

Moreover, his denial is in point blank contradiction to what he just said. Notice how he himself laid down the necessary conditions of identity:

Some x and some y can be numerically identical only if whatever is true of one is true of the other.

So if x just is (is numerically the same as) y, then it can’t be that x and y qualitatively differ.

That’s how he framed the issue. So x and y can’t be numerically identical if they differ qualitatively. They can’t be numerically identical unless whatever is true of x is true of y.

Then, a moment later he says x and y can be numerically identical even if there’s a qualitative change between x and y–even if something that’s true of x isn’t true of y, viz. what’s true of you at one time is not longer true of you at a later date (i.e. weight loss or weight gain). Yet, according to Tuggy, it’s still one and the same you! “That’s just common sense!”

But that clearly fails to meet the conditions of identity which he himself specified at the outset. 


  1. I wouldn't expect much in the way of consistency and rigorous intellectual honesty from someone who professes to be a Christian philosopher, yet isn't a Christian.

    The jury is still out on the philosopher claim, but given the contradictory logical absurdities being offered up the prospects aren't very promising on that front either.

    In Christ,

  2. Steve, like an accomplished cusser, your obnoxiousness has a certain small charm.

    "But that clearly fails to meet the conditions of identity which he himself specified at the outset."

    Sorry, but this shows you didn't understand what was going on the post. I start with a simple, too simple formula, actually two of them. I use that to draw attention to a fundamental intuition we all have - that a thing can't at a time be and not be some way. I go through a couple of obvious problems with the simple formulations, then come up with a more complex, but true one. Evidently your desire to post a zinger got the best of you, either before you read, or before you understood that part. Probably, if you understood the claim, you'd agree.

    As I've pointed out before, you too know L's Law. Suppose you meet some guy at a conference with the initials DT, who has many of my other features too. When do you find out that he isn't me? As soon as you discover just one way in which we have ever or do differ. You just applied L's Law, as God designed. Be glad for it. It's perfectly general principle too. If you reflect on it, you'll see that it applies not only to all that is, but also to all that could be.

    Please do not repeat your mis-statement, already corrected I think more than once, that I say that "the Trinity" is inconsistent with L's Law. Most serious Trinity theories have no problem at all with it, and they are constructed in full cognizance of everything in my post. Knowing something about those theories, I've never said what you keep repeating. You flatter yourself with the thought that all trinitarians as such face the same problems as your theory. (This gets you off the hook for fixing those problems.) But is demonstrably not so.

    Denying L's Law to save a cherished theological theory is like the dude who believes in inerrancy, and is confronted with a mathematical discrepancy between, say 1 Chr & 1 Kings. His reply:

    10,000 just is 1,000 - don't believe what those idolatrous mathematicians tell you! They think they're so smart!

    You're not able to think straight about identity because of your overflowing contempt for me. This is sad. I'm just a puny little professor, and these are magnificent and important topics. Seriously, you should find good stuff on this by other people, and just not read me.

    About Kant etc., you talked earlier of "God in himself." Yes, Kant's version of the noumena/phenomena distinction has to do with sense perception of the physical world, but Hick's distinction does not. If I thought you were serious, I'd ask you what you think the "ad intra/extra distinction" amounts to.

    You've said that the EC is God's relation to the world, and inconsistently with that, you've said that it is (the sum total of?) his actions. Either way, the "Economic Trinity" isn't a Trinity, or a substance/thing at all, so I guess you're off the hook when it comes to 2 Trinities. But I thought you invoked 2, so as to say that one changes and the other doesn't. But not being a substance/thing, arguably the items you cite do not change at all. They may occur at some times but not others, in the case of action. Since the 2nd Trinity isn't one, you just have an absolutely unchanging God, period (though his actions - or maybe his one timeless action - manifest at different times and places).

    In any case, back to special ed for me, and back to anger management therapy for you.