A First Lesson in Metaphysics

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5 Responses to A First Lesson in Metaphysics

  1. Matthew Hryniewicz says:

    I was recently engaged in a brief conversation on another blog trying to figure out how to understand the nature of simplicity and why there cannot be multiple simple ‘beings’. A main part of the explanation was that in order for two simple beings to be differentiated, they needed to differ in some respect, and that the difference would necessarily entail the existence of some additional part to one of them. I was a little confused by some of this because it can easily sound as if we can create something composite by adding to what is simple (aka to God), but clearly that is not the case. I think this video will be very helpful for me to work on some of my conceptualizations because it seems to make a case for composition being a reduction of simplicity. That the ‘addition’ of metaphysical parts is really a diminution of, or a measure of dissimilarity to, the infinite plenitude of simple existence that is God.

    I’d be really interested to hear some thoughts on this by the more educated readers of this blog as my thoughts, as usual, are quite inchoate.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Your thoughts here tie into Dionysius’s undertanding of God: finite being is God’s self-differentiation.

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    • brian says:

      Matthew,

      Not sure I can do anything more than recapitulate Clarke. If one recognizes that the fundamental complexity of finite being is that it possesses existence through participation so that there is no identity between its essence and its existence, the main line of argument becomes fairly lucid. Existential Thomism helps elucidate God as Being beyond being in which existence and essence coincide. Infinite, flourishing asiety is the signature of simplicity. Thus, finite being (as I surmise you understand from the video) is a limited participation or if you like (subtraction) from the fullness of simplicity. Contrary to ordinary connotations, Divine Simplicity exceeds creaturely complexity. The complex is less than the simple. Further, finite being implies multiplicity, but since there is no potency in God, the infinitude of simplicity rules out the kind of multiplicity one discovers in creation. Nonetheless, the possibility for created difference is indeed ultimately derived from Relation within Simplicity (a static, apersonal plenitude would never create.) So, TriUne God allows for number, but not multiplicity.

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Brian, may I ask you a related question, one with which I am struggling right now with Dionysius: How do you understand the divine freedom? Specifically, could God have not created the universe?

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  2. brian says:

    Father, I don’t think I can answer this in a pithy manner. There’s no doubt, especially in something like chapter 4 of the Divine Names, that Dionysius expounds a Divine Erotics. Thomas Traherne later picked up on this in a particularly winsome way. And yet, I think one cannot compromise God’s aseity and perfect flourishing. So, we are confronted with an Agapeic Erotics which must differ from the erotics of a finite being driven by lack. Further, one is also faced with the kind of coincidence of opposites that Nicholas of Cusa made central to his theology. Just as Agape and Eros coincide in God, so do Freedom and Necessity, but each term is “greater” than what we can understand analogically. If I were to write out a lengthy meditation on this, my answer would be a rather irritating “yes” and “no” depending on from what respect one looked at it. From the perspective of creatio ex nihilo, Creation is utterly gratuitous. But following Dionysius, Sherrard, Bulgakov and others, I am inclined to accentuate the “yes.” The objection that this makes the Creation a necessary addition in order for God to be Creator (and thus a change from potential to act) is usually dealt with by explaining that the world is dependent upon God, but God does not have a real relation to the world. I don’t quibble with Aquinas on this. His metaphysics seems sound to me, but I still believe there is an aspect of the Mystery that may require an “esoteric” recognition that 1) Creation is ultimately in both Origin and Eschatological conclusion rooted in God (this entails a theophanic intimacy missing in some of the more sterile versions of Thomism) and 2) Temporal perspectives skew our understanding. From eternity, the “necessary creation” is “always already” the flourishing of the Kingdom, so Creation is something God always possesses as “Good.” In short, it is not an erotics of lack because Creation is not, like the lost coin, “missing.” And thus, God is never not a Creator even though Creation has an “eternal” beginning.

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