Sovereignty and Abstract Objects

You might recall a few weeks back I had a post on “Aseity and Abstract Objects” hinting at some of the problems that arise if we grant that

(1) God has a nature–a property or group of properties that He has essentially and that are distinct from Him.

and

(2) God exists “a se”–God depends on nothing distinct from Himself for His existence.

I had planned on a follow-up post looking at another facet on the problem of God and abstract objects, namely, the question of divine sovereignty. Imagine my delight when I found that Simon recently commented on the very subject, doing a far better job than I would have. Check out his post yourself. Let me just add my 2 cents however:

Suppose we define Sovereignty thus:

(3) Whatever is distinct from God depends on God for its existence

How does this square with the Platonic thesis of necessarily existing abstract entities? After all, if such things are necessary (that is to say, their non-existence is impossible), how can they depend on God for their existence? It would seem, as Plantinga wonders, that their existence isn’t “up to God.”
Moreover, consider the very character of such abstract entities. Take for example, the property omniscience. Its character is such that whatever entity, x, has it, for every true proposition p, x knows that p. But it does not seem that this characteristic of omniscience is “up to God.”

So then how should we understand divine sovereignty if it seems that the existence and character of abstract objects are not “up to God?”

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5 Responses to Sovereignty and Abstract Objects

  1. davis says:

    Hey guys,

    I found this blog your comments at John Depoe’s.

    Stephen Montague Puryear presented a paper at the ETS a few years back that looks at this problem from a Thomistic perspective. you can read it here.

    I’ll look forward to reading this blog.

    -Davis at Tu Quoque

  2. Xavier says:

    Thanks Davis, feel free to stop by anytime. I’m already a fan of you folks over there at Tu Quoque.
    By the way, I couldn’t get the link to work but I did some “googleing” and I think I found that ETS paper by S. M. Puryer you mentioned–Could Abstract Objects Be The Thoughts of God?

  3. davis says:

    Oops. That’s the paper I meant to link to.

  4. quinn says:

    Dirt!
    I hope all is well for you and your family. I’ve been enjoying your blog, makes me think. One question, the Simon post states of Plantinga, “Next he articulates and rejects the answer proposed by Aquinas and others – that God has a nature and that He is identical with it.” But he does not present how Plantinga rejects this view. Help me out, I must be overlooking the obvious. Just curious as to his reasoning.
    Miss you dirt,
    Quinn

  5. Xavier says:

    Hi dirt bag! Yes, Thomas’ solution is that God is identical with His nature. Plantinga thinks that this is a brazen effort but there is a serious problem with it. Suppose as in (1), we construe the nature of an individual as a group of properties that individual has essentially that are distinct from it.

    If God is identical with His nature, Plantinga reasons, then God is identical with His properties. Further, by transitivity of identity, each of His properties is identical with the other, so that God has only one property. More strange though, is that if God is identical with His properties, it follows that God Himself is a property. But on the contemporary understanding, properties are causally inert (they can’t do anything), lifeless, and impersonal.

    So according to Plantinga, the Thomist route though well-motivated, ends in an absurdity. God ends up being nothing more than a lifeless, impersonal, abstract object.
    Personally, I don’t buy Plantinga here, but hey, who am I?

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