Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Unitarianism, Polytheism, and Trinitarianism

U = I think, therefore, I am; I am, therefore, I think. (Unity is ultimate)

P = We think, therefore, we are; we are, therefore, we think. (Plurality is ultimate)

T = I think, therefore, we are; we think, therefore, I am. (Unity and plurality are equally ultimate)


  1. Paul, on the topic of unity and plurality (rather than unitarianism and polytheism), do you know of any good resources that address the issue of the equal ultimacy of unity and plurality? It seems like a really good argument for, if not the Trinitarian God, at least a many-in-one God. But I've never been able to find any good, rigorous literature on the topic. Just general, popular-level stuff.

  2. Oops, forgot to tick the email follow-up box.

  3. Dom,

    That there's a problem can be found in many metaphysics books, but I assume you're aware of the problem. As far as addressing it, most, as you know, opt for one side of the problem over the other. As far as the equal ultimacy arguments, there's not much by way of "rigorous" literature on the topic; however, if you haven't read James Anderson's article on the theistic args of Van Til and Plantinga, see p. 16

    Btw, I should add, I wasn't making an argument with this post.

  4. Dominic,

    I once asked a guy who used to be on TheologyWeb, Brian Bosse, about this. He put it this way:

    (1) Knowledge is possible.
    (2) Either plurality is ultimate, or unity is ultimate, or they are both co-ultimate.
    (3) If unity is ultimate, then knowledge is not possible.
    (4) If plurality is ultimate, then knowledge is not possible.
    (5) Therefore, plurality and unity are co-ultimate.
    (6) The only worldview that brings particulars together with generalities (co-ultimate unity and plurality) is the Christian Worldview because of its Triune God.
    (7) Therefore, this Triune God is necessary for knowledge.

    I think asked him a question about something else he said and he brought it together in this way:

    You ask, “Muslims conceive of Allah in the sense of being necessary (exists in all possible worlds), so why does it prove the Christian God over Allah?”

    The first two premises of the Modal Ontological argument I used in the debate were as follows:

    P(1): If X exists, then X exists necessarily.
    P(2): It is possible for X to exist.

    I would argue that when you instantiate X with ‘Allah’, then P(2) is false. Here is how I would argue for this:

    Limit the set of possible worlds to only those worlds where knowledge is possible. This should not be objectionable being that one is attempting to argue that X exists in the real world where knowledge is possible. Therefore, we can limit our discourse to only those possible worlds where knowledge is possible. Since the possibility of knowledge is necessary due to the limit we placed on the domain of our discourse, then if Allah does exist, the Muslim worldview must have the ontological basis to account for such knowledge. Since it does not (this is argued via the one and many argument I presented to you earlier), then Allah does not exist in any of these possible worlds. As such, it is not the case that it is possible for Allah to exist within this limited domain.

  5. Thanks AMC, Brian Bosse has written some good stuff, not least of all his logical analysis of John 6:44, which blows Arminianism right out of the water.

    I actually understand the use of the unity/plurality argument pretty well. I've used it myself, and against Islam too! What I was hoping for was a more systematic statement of the problem, which James Anderson does give, although as he notes, it's notoriously difficult to set out with precision.