Some Consequences Of Divine Thisnessless

I shall now argue that divine thisnessless implies that the divine persons are quasi-individuals not individuals and that this permits divine fission. First, I claim that nothing lacking in thisness is an individual unless it derives its individuality from something with thisness. The primordial God does not have such derived individuality. So the primordial God is not an individual but what I shall call a quasi-individual. I further claim that quasi-individuals can survive fission. Here I note, only to dismiss, the objection that as a matter of conceptual analysis persons must be individuals. I dismiss this because should that be the case it merely shows that the primordial God, although a personal being, was not a person but rather a quasi-person. And that is of no consequence. Nor would it be of much consequence if it should turn out that, even now, the Persons of the Trinity are strictly speaking quasi-persons because they are not individuals in the strict sense. Indeed that might strike some as a welcome further moderation of Social Trinitarianism.

If Xs are genuine individuals there will, ignoring vagueness, be a unique though perhaps infinite answer to the question 'How many Xs are there?' What I mean by a quasi-individual is that if Xs are quasi-individuals the question 'How many Xs are there?' has a unique least correct answer but no unique correct answer. For example, 'three', 'six', 'nine' etc. might all be correct answers to the question, in which case 'three' is the unique least correct answer. The obvious convention for counting quasi-individuals is to speak as if the Identity of

Indiscernibles held and so give the least correct answer, in this case 'three'. I shall be arguing that the primordial God is a quasi-individual and so the question 'How many divine persons are there?' had in the primordial situation any positive whole number as its answer. Therefore, the least correct, and hence conventional answer would have been 'one'.

My claim is that to be an individual rather than a quasi-individual something must either have thisness or derive its individuality by being related to something with thisness in such a way that only one thing could be so related. Suppose Swinburne is correct in claiming that some created things such as human persons have thisness. And suppose joint causation is impossible so only one divine person could create a given item. Then any divine person which created something with thisness would thereby become an individual and so, I say, incapable of further fission. But prior to creation it would seem that the divine persons are quasi-individuals and their number is not so much three as three-or-any-multiple.

I argue for this by exploiting the well-known connection between thisness and the principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles. I shall first state the argument in the context of the debate over that principle, and then isolate it. First, then, I note that Adams has argued that because the Identity of Indiscernibles fails then there must be things with thisness.15 To do this he presents a variant on Black's argument that the Identity of Indiscernibles fails because there are possible symmetrical worlds.16 We could, for instance, consider a world with nothing in it but two qualitatively identical spheres. Because of the symmetry there is nothing to make one sphere this and the other that except, the argument goes, their thisnesses. And that seems correct, provided we are neutral between a realist and a nominalist interpretation ofthisness. The weak link in the argument is the assumption that there is a possible world which may only be described as consisting of nothing but two qualitatively identical spheres. That assumption has a certain initial plausibility because we are reluctant to multiply necessities and the only alternative to it initially seems to be that necessarily there cannot be a world describable as consisting of nothing but two qualitatively identical spheres. At this point we should, however, recall Hacking's interpretation of the Identity ofIndiscernibles, namely that any possible world may be described as without two indiscernible things.17 So, in the case of the two spheres example, Hacking would say that there is indeed a world which may be described as two spheres which exactly resemble each other, but that this same world may also be described as just a single sphere.

I think Hacking is right about the alternative to believing in thisness. Nothing as strong as the impossibility of two or more qualitatively identical things should follow from the mere lack of thisness. Rather if there is no thisness then there is

■5 See Robert M. Adams 'Primitive Thisness and Primitive Identity', Journal of Philosophy 76 (1979), 5-26.

■6 Max Black, 'The Identity of Indiscernibles', Mind 61 (1952), 153-64.

■7 Ian Hacking, 'The Identity of Indiscermibles,' Journal of Philosophy 72 (1975), 249-56.

no fact of the matter as to whether we describe the possible world as consisting of one sphere or two qualitatively identical spheres. Hence the spheres are quasi-individuals. We may with perfect correctness describe the situation as one with two, or three or more spheres but the minimum number of spheres in a correct description is one.

Isolating the argument, it goes like this. First I invite you to consider items which lack thisness and which are not individuated by other things which have thisness. Then I submit that there is no difference between saying there is just one of them or saying there are many of them which exactly resemble each other. And that, by definition, is to say they are quasi-individuals.

To this you might well reply that it is not even possible for there to be several items which exactly resemble each other. I have two rejoinders to this. The first that this reply multiplies necessities more than is necessary. Necessities are, I say, significant facts about the way things are which should not be made true simply by a lack of thisness.

My other rejoinder is to rely upon Adams' Continuity Argument.18 Adams, having already rejected Hacking's position, argues against the impossibility of two indiscernible things by noting that there could be things which were discernible in some minute and trivial fashion. Thus, in his example, a quickly forgotten detail of a nightmare is all that might distinguish someone from an otherwise exact replica. Then he relies upon the intuition, which I share, that such minutiae should not affect the issue. I do not, however, take this as an argument for thisness, but rather as showing that where things lack thisness there is no fact of the matter as to whether they are one or many.

I grant that the above argument is just the sort ofthing that brings metaphysics into disrepute. How could anyone know, readers might protest, about such matters? How can I be so confident about the principle that necessities are not to be multiplied more than is necessary? And why should we trust an intuition that the difference between the possibility and impossibility of replicas should not depend on some minute difference? I grant that all this is speculative. But in order to defend a moderate Social Trinitarianism it suffices to provide a speculative metaphysics which is no worse than its rivals. At very least, then, we may speculate that items lacking thisness are quasi-individuals unless they derive individuality from items with thisness.

I now argue that quasi-individuals can survive fission.19 Let us consider again the universe which can be described either as consisting of one sphere or as two (or more) indiscernible spheres. Perhaps this sphere/these spheres are subject to

■8 Adams, 'Primitive Thisness and Primitive Identity', p. 17.

19 Here I am indebted to David Lewis' defence of the possibility of fission. See 'Survival and Identity' in A.O. Rorty (ed.) The Identities of Persons (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 17—40, reprinted in David Lewis, Philosophical Papers, Vol. I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 55—73, with postscript (pp. 73—7). I take Lewis to be claiming that even we human beings are quasi-individuals.

rare and random deformation. There is a chance that a sphere will become a cube. If we describe the universe as two spheres then there is a chance of one of them becoming a cube. In that case the 'one' sphere has undergone fission into a sphere and a cube. More accurately the minimum answer to the question 'How many solid objects are there?' has increased from one to two. The reason why the object survives such fission is that the situation can truly be described as one in which there were always two objects one of which changed.

Likewise on the assumption that the primordial God lacks thisness there is the possibility of fission into three divine persons. I see no reason, however, to suppose such fission to be beyond the power of the primordial God to control.

Eventually either Creation or the Incarnation might confer individuality on the divine persons, but prior to Creation the divine persons are still quasi-individuals. Hence it is only the asymmetry of some of the relations between them which prevents the conventional number of divine persons being one. So if these asymmetrical relations are few, we can say that it is almost the case that the conventional numbering is one. This might help to further moderate Social Trinitarianism.

The above provides a speculative account ofhow it is possible for divine persons to be individuated by their relations only: it is possible because they are quasi-individuals and the asymmetry of certain relations merely serves to exclude some of the ways of counting them, leaving only those in which there are a multiple of three. Had the relations been symmetric then there would have been all ways of counting so the conventional number of divine persons would be one.

I have speculated that the primordial one-person God fissions into a Trinity for the sake of there being community. To provide further details of how this fission occurs, we may suppose some power of self-limitation in the three (or more) indistinguishable quasi-individuals who are the primordial God. Hence the three persons who are symmetrically related (and hence conventionally counted as one person) can choose to lose half of some of the symmetrical relation. Interestingly, since God then becomes the Trinity this does not require that God ceases to be omnipotent.20 The self-limitation merely concerns the three persons who become distinct—distinct in the sense that their minimum number is now three—by limiting their powers.

But what relations shall we consider? Social trinitarians should not follow Augustine and Aquinas in considering the relations of love and knowledge. For these must surely hold symmetrically between the persons of a perfect community. Now, although there is more to loving than giving and receiving, giving is the typical and appropriate expression of love. I speculate, then, that we may take the relations distinguishing the persons of the Trinity as ones in which some gift

20 Omnipotence is notoriously hard to define, but I take divine omnipotence to be quite neutral on the topic of power to alter the divine composition. Omnipotence concerns power over things other than God.

is given or shared. My speculation is that the gift is one of continued existence and hence the continuance of the joy of being a divine person. The Second Person's existence is a gift from the First and the Third's a gift from the first two. I would further speculate that the three divine persons are faced with a choice of either exercising a power of continued existence or, laying down that power, conferring continued existence on other divine persons. It might go like this. The First Person has the power to continue the Second's existence, and they could both continue in existence of their own power, but they have to lay down this power in bringing the Third into existence, and the Third could then exist without the others but lays down this power in order to ensure the continued existence of the First.

Clearly there are many variants on this speculation. But the basic idea is that the fission of the primordial God results from a voluntary diminution of the powers of the three initially indiscernible persons so that they become a genuine community in which each person expresses love for the others.

It might be objected that love is a sham if you can rely, with rational certainty, on others reciprocating. A loving community, it might be suggested, is one with genuine vulnerability where everyone trusts each other but does so without rational certainty. To this my reply is that the vulnerability implicit in loving relations is that of trust where the one trusted is free not to reciprocate. A perfectly loving community is one in which the individuals can be relied upon with full confidence freely to choose to reciprocate. The disposition to trust others without rational certainty if the circumstances should arise is, however, required for the perfection of being a totally loving person. God has that perfection but it only gets manifested in the Incarnation, which is not my present topic.

If you ask when the fission of the primordial God occurred I would reply that there is, on the one hand, an ordered sequence A of acts by human and divine agents and, on the other, a dimension of time T (more accurately space-time) which is part ofand dependent on this universe which is created by God in one of the acts in A. Now the human and perhaps some of the divine acts in A are correlated with moments in T.21 So if we ask when the Trinity came into being we may reply in two ways. There is no moment in T at which either it or the creation of this universe occurred, but in the sequence of acts A the formation of the Trinity was, presumably, the very first act. It preceded the act of creation which in turn preceded any of the acts correlated with moments of T.

Notice also the difficulty in providing a speculation in which the primordial God splits into a Binity. For in that case we could only distinguish the two persons by assuming that one (the First) retains the power to continue to exist

21 For details of this correlation see Peter Forrest, 'Physical Necessity and the Passage of Time', in Peter J. Riggs (ed.), Natural Kinds, Laws of Nature and Scientific Methodology (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1996), pp. 49-62.

while the other (the Second) does not. But then there is no gift of love from the Second to the First.

I have sketched a Swinburne-inspired account of the Trinity as a community of love arising from, and being explained by the existence of a primordial God who is not a Trinity. Following Swinburne I relied heavily on divine thisnessless, but, unlike him, I have not relied on human thisness. It remains to show how the various desiderata are satisfied, especially those which Swinburne's own account did not satisfy.

First, I note that the existence of the divine persons as distinct depends on the diflEring relations between them. Because they are quasi-individuals, if they remained in existence but did not have these differing relations, they would undergo fusion. That is, the minimum number they could be assigned would drop from three to one. The necessity by which this is so is the necessity of divine thisnessless, which I take to be ontological necessity. It is also worth considering what would happen if, say, the First Person failed to confer existence on the Second. Then the Trinity would collapse into a unitarian God, but by the extinction of the other persons rather than by fusion. All this is compatible with the ontological impossibility of God ceasing to exist. For, whether there is fusion or the survival of just one person, in either case God still exists.

Because of the ontological necessity of the dependence of the divine persons on the relations between them, they constitute a single 'ousia' which satisfies the desideratum of Intellectual Monotheism, and does so in a way which meets Clark's objection that we should be considering ontological rather than metaphysical necessity.

Finally, let us consider the Athanasian Creed used by Clark (p. 472) as an objection to Swinburne's position. Here I agree with Clark. For even given appropriate freedom of interpretation the claim that each of the three divine persons is God should not be taken as merely predicating divinity of them. Rather it means that each divine person is in some sense the whole of God. I shall exhibit two senses in which my speculation identifies each divine person with the whole of God. I leave it to readers to decide whether these satisfy the spirit of the Athanasian Creed. I also note that we will be able to say that in some fashion the divine persons have no beginning. For each person is in some sense identical to the primordial God.

The first sense in which each of the three divine persons is identical to the whole of God is a loose sense of identity over time. If we think of a person as consisting of stages related in a suitable way, then we loosely refer to the relation between stages as identity. In that loose sense, if a person undergoes fission it is often said that the pre-fission stage is identical to each of the post-fission stages. The phrase 'is identical to' in this loose sense seems to mean 'is a part ofthe same temporally extended person as'. In that sense we may indeed say that the one primordial God is 'identical to' each of the three divine persons, and hence the divine persons are without beginning in whatever way the primordial God is without beginning.

The other sense concerns not 'identity' over time, but counterfactual identity. Here we may say that each divine person is the whole of God meaning that were the others to cease to exist then what is left would be God without any loss of power or knowledge. On my speculation that does indeed hold, and holds of ontological necessity.22

22 I would like to thank both the anonymous referee and Peter Byrne for their helpful advice.

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