Monday, February 07, 2005
A Jotting about Aquinas on Divine Simplicity
It is not sufficiently noted that Aquinas always characterizes the doctrine of simplicity as the claim that there is no composition in God. Composition, however, tends to be a technical term for Aquinas; it means a union of two things as potential to actual. That this is in fact what he means in this context is clear from the way he goes about discussing simplicity. It has become common to claim that Aquinas's doctrine of simplicity conflicts with the doctrine of the Trinity; but this is an artifact, I think, of not properly characterizing Aquinas's doctrine of simplicity. I think a failure to recognize the essential point about composition is a major factor in this. For the only alternatives to Aquinas on this is to say either 1) that the Trinity is an aggregate; or 2) that the Persons are related to each other in some way as actual to potential. (1) contradicts the unity of the Persons. (2) contradicts the equality of the persons. So the alternatives to Aquinas violate the doctrine of the Trinity. Aquinas's does not, because the doctrine of the Trinity does not require us to say that there is a union according to potential and actual in God. This, of course, leaves many other questions (could it possibly be otherwise?), but the claims of Aquinas's problem here are massively exaggerated.