I’ve been thinking for a while about metaphysical positions that bring with them — free, so to speak — theological claims. For a not-so-good example, think of Bradley’s metaphysic. According to F.H. Bradley, there is no such thing as time. If Bradley is right, and God exists, then God is atemporal. (I say this is a not-so-good example because Bradley’s argument for the unreality of time also gets him the unreality of space, and further, the claim that there cannot be more than one thing. So, if Bradley is right, and God exists, then pantheism is true.) The same is true for McTaggart — if McTaggart is right about time being an illusion, then God is atemporal.
Now, of course I know that just about every metaphysic entails something-or-other about theology. And I also know that some metaphysical positions have nothing at all to say to some theological claims. However, I’m wondering whether there are any contemporary metaphysics such that, adding a contentious theological claim doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t provide a difficulty not already resolved in the metaphysic? A concrete example, you ask? Why, sure.
I first started thinking about this last spring, during a conversation with Peter van Inwagen. We were talking about divine simplicity and theories of properties, and he claimed that whatever the church fathers meant when calling God simple, his metaphysic was completely consistent with it. I’ve thought about that, and though I’m not sure he’s right, I’m not positive he’s wrong either.
Simplicity is supposed to rule out complexity in God. One important form of complexity is having metaphysical parts, such as Smith’s courage being a metaphysical part of Smith. However, this sort of complexity requires a constituent ontology — where the properties a thing has are metaphysical constituents or parts of the thing. PvI affirms a relation ontology. So it isn’t the case that Smith’s courage is a constituent or part of Smith. Smith is courageous by being related to a certain thing (the form or universal Courage). So, on PvI’s view, Smith (and God) doesn’t have a metaphysical part for each property he has. For PvI, God isn’t metaphysically complex just in virtue of having properties.
However, relational ontologies are problematic for divine simplicity as well (or at least for divine aseity) since, for instance, God depends on the form of Justice in order for him to be just. God is just because he is related properly to the abstract object justice. PvI’s theory of properties may get around this problem as well. On PvI’s theory of properties (provided in his aptly named, “A Theory of Properties”) properties are assertables — that is, properties are things you can say about things. However, as far as I can tell, properties aren’t such that they make the things they are said about a particular way. For example, the property of blue is something such that it can be said of things. It isn’t something such that it makes things blue. It is just something such that it can be truly said of things that are blue. So, God doesn’t depend on the universal Justice in order to be just.
So, If I have PvI right, his theory of properties can get around composition in God (by denying constituent ontology) while also getting around the aseity objection (by denying that properties are the things that make things be particular ways).
So, to bring the example back to the question at hand: are there examples of metaphysics currently on offer that can take an additional, contentious theological claim at no cost? Is my PvI example one of them?