Platonic theology (2)

1.) Every multitude presupposes and is secondary to the one. 

If it is twelve, it is both one twelve and twelve ones. To be this multitude that iterates this thing requires coming after what is one.

2.) Temporal existence is necessarily a multitude. 

What is peculiar about it is its inability to exist as one, its inability to have all the goods that can belong to its nature at once. And so the temporal necessarily presupposes what is one.

3.) The One presupposed to temporal existence is non-temporal. 

If not, it is temporal and therefore a multitude by (2), which is contrary to (1).

4.)  The non-temporal One is the cause of temporal existence. 

Whatever is (a) prior in existence to something, and (b) its sine qua non is a cause.

5.) All evils are caused in time by temporal agents. 

Evil consists in taking some good as an object which excludes some other good. But to have one good to the exclusion of another is peculiar to temporal things (2).

Objection: Some goods intrinsically incompatible. Being a man rules out being a woman, being extravert rules out being introverted, being a loner rules out being agreeable. It is therefore the character of the goods themselves and not their temporal existence that makes them incompatible.

Response: These are not ruled out for the same matter. The atoms that now make a male might later make up a female, as happens all the time when one animal eats another. Both can be in one substrate at different times.  The presence of the common fundaments of the universe guarantees that it is not the goods themselves that oppose each other, except ex hypothesi that we view some temporal thing as fixed at one moment in time in which, as temporal, it can never remain.

6.) The eternal One causes all that is in time except its evils. 

From (4) and (5).

7.) The eternal One is good. 

That which is the cause of all in time except its evils is good.


  1. E. R. Bourne said,

    April 25, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Regarding your fifth point, how is supernatural evil understood in this way? IIRC, Aquinas’ discussion of angelic sin is incredibly nuanced regarding whether or not it occurred in any temporal or successive sense. Does an understanding of evil as necessarily temporal have any impact or is itself impacted by this understanding of angelic sin?

    • April 25, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      I hope not – I wrote that point with an eye to just that problem. The peccability of the angels presupposes their temporality in the sense of their lacking all goods wholly and at once, which is time in the Neoplatonic sense (cf. Plotinus on Eternity and Time sec. 3). STA sees time as bound up with matter, which leads to a more complex account.

  2. David said,

    April 26, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Slightly off topic, perhaps, but do you think WLC’s critique of platonism on the basis of divine aseity (what leads him to nominalism) is applicable to this sort of neoplatonist theology?

    • May 1, 2017 at 10:53 pm

      I want you to respond to this.

    • May 1, 2017 at 10:53 pm

      I mean, the answer is definitely yes, but I want you to anyway. At length. In fact, I want you to rant about it.

      • May 2, 2017 at 10:17 am

        Yeah, that set of claims does rub the wrong way, doesn’t it? I’ve read this dialogue and this paper, and was exasperated at the reasoning. The issue is too trapped in the lit and never questions any of the basic assumptions in play.

        My fundamental response is that some mind-dependent things are objective and so it is an error to make mind independence the criterion for the real. Craig seems to be close to recognizing this in the introduction to his article, when he recognizes the possibility that theism would allow a way to make all reality mind-dependent, but he takes this an an undesirable conclusion. I think it is a lovely claim that needs qualification but has to have a place in an ontology.

        I’m with John Deely and the Medieval tradition that allowed ens rationis to be objective. Anything publicly verifiable, given in experience, explorable, etc. has to count as objective, and this applies to modus tollens and hypercubes as much as to cats. Even stories and myths share in the objective so far as they will always have more reality in them than was imparted by the author or tradition that gave rise to them. The whole debate seems to arise after we assume we must shoehorn the real into the mind-independent. Why not allow the real to be simply the objective, the explorable, what has to be dealt with, etc.? Or maybe we could divide up senses of the real, where Hamlet was not historical but was explorable, had a personality, was connected to more truths than Shakespeare could realize… Should’t an ontology allow for important differences in the reality of MacBeth, triangles, the border between Texas and Oklahoma, and the Present king of France, and the last prime number even though all of them are mind-dependent?

        IOW, distinguish the mind-dependent vs. independent axis from the objective vs. unreal axis, and allow a layered account of the real to account for the various categories that arise from the where various entities fall. Abstracta can be mind-dependent but as real as cats; Hamlet is less real than either but more real than a second rate character since there is more about him to explore and discover.

      • David said,

        May 3, 2017 at 9:54 am

        Thank you! 🙂

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