Tuggy’s latest Trinitarian dilemma

Brandon is critical of Dale Tuggy’s latest dilemma for orthodox Trinitarians:

1. The Father and the Son are the same God.
2. For any x and y, and for any kind F, if x and y are the same F, then x is an F, y is an F, and x = y. (x and y are numerically one)
3. The Father = the Son. (1, 2)

I’ve read Tuggy give dilemmas like this for years, though I don’t usually challenge them because our philosophical differences are vast and (probably) intractable. But this particular dilemma is interesting because it opens itself to an interesting retorsion. Assume that I read Tuggy’s dilemma and had exactly the same idea for a response as Brandon. This sort of thing happens all the time – it’s the reason we watch game shows. But then by Tuggy’s #2 my idea would be numerically the same as Brandon’s. But then what do we do with the fact that my idea is mine and his is his?

That last question isn’t rhetorical: I’m not trying to refute Tuggy, at least not directly. But I do think that ideas allow us insights into sorts of unity that suggest the sort of unity and distinction we find in the Trinity. We can have the numerically the same idea in a way we can’t have, say, the same shoes. If you and I have the same shoes, then either we mean nothing more than that we have the same kind of thing or we’re passing the same pair between us, with the one guy always having to do without what the other guy has. But ideas are not like this: If you and I both yell “four” when someone asks us what two plus two is, we have to say something more than that we gave the same kind of answer. Again, if there are three Camry owners there are three Camrys, but if there are three people who know Latin there aren’t three Latins. Put crudely, what it means for a material object to be the same or different is divided from what it means for l’esprit to be the same or different, because the things in the latter group allow for a numerical unity that is compatible with possession in diverse selves. If I had to critique Tuggy’s argument, that’s where I’d start.

These are old insights: Aristotle would argue that the mind is nothing but what it thinks; and even in sensation our organs contribute to the object we perceive only to the extent that it is not objective. On this account, perfect objectivity would just be identity with some object, even if done by multiple selves. To approach the Trinity from this angle would be to see God as perfect or pure objectivity, though not limited to a single one thinking. We have minimal additions to make to Aristotle’s idea of thought thinking itself – we include only that it belongs to the perfection of such a being to have a second person perspective. To leave it at this, however, would make the God purely intellectual – probably better to add another self to make him loving and volitional as well. But then I’d have the same idea as Saint Augustine. Heh.

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1 Comment

  1. Maureen said,

    October 1, 2014 at 12:42 am

    The correction from, “asymmetrical” to “symmetric” does make a whole lot of difference to the breadth of that dilemma, or others, where – if not mistaken, or unenlightened would then have to use another method to fill the second person perspective with something outside of a perfect and proportional set of attributes, so vast and different in girth, yet so unified; and of course as, “Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum. (Amen)”


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