Important Consequences

This completes our defense of the Aristotelian account of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. As we see it, however, this account is not only interesting in its own right, but also has several important consequences. We close by calling attention to two of these.

First, our solution suggests a revision in our understanding of the nature of the copula. Philosophers traditionally distinguish what is called the 'is' of predication from the 'is' of identity. It is sometimes added, moreover, that any solution to the problem of material constitution that denies that constitution is identity must introduce a third sense of'is'. As Lynne Baker says:

If the constitution view [i.e., the view that constitution is not identity] is correct, then there is a third sense of'is', distinct from the other two. The third sense of'is' is the 'is' of constitution (as in 'is (constituted by) a piece of marble').29

Baker seems to think that if constitution is not identity, there will have to be three main senses of the copula, each co-ordinate with the other two. But we can now see that this is a mistake. If our account of the Trinity is correct, constitution can be explained in terms of something other than identity (namely, accidental sameness). Even so, there will be only two main senses of the copula, namely, the traditional 'is' of predication and a heretofore unrecognized sense of the copula, the 'is' of numerical sameness. There will still be an 'is' of identity and an

Fig. 6.1.

29 Baker 1999:51.

'is' of constitution, as Baker suggests, but these will both be subsumed under the second of the two main senses just mentioned. Indeed, if we take into account all of the changes suggested by our account of the Trinity, we will get a fairly complex set of relations holding between the various senses of the copula, as Figure 4.1 makes clear:

Second, our solution helps to make clear that both the problem of material constitution and the problem of the Trinity are generated in part by the fact that we have incompatible intuitions about how to count things. Thus, both problems might plausibly be seen as special instances of a broader counting problem—a problem that arises whenever we appear to have, on the one hand, a single object of one sort (e.g., God or material object) and, on the other hand, multiple coinciding objects of a different sort (e.g., Person, or hylomorphic compound). One significant advantage of the Aristotelian solution to the problem of material constitution is that it alone seems to provide a unified strategy for resolving the broader problem of which it is an instance.30

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment