On divine simplicity

The classical theist says that because God is simple, all of His properties are identical with each other and with His divinity.

The skeptic replies that this is not possible, because some divine properties, such as omnipotence, are essential, while others, such as being my creator and knowing it, are contingent.

The classical theist replies that only God’s real properties are identical, and His being my creator is only a Cambridge property.

Does this reply work?

Certainly that God is my creator is a Cambridge property; it’s really a fact about me, or about the relationship between the two of us.  But what about God’s willing to create me and knowing that He has done so?  Those seem to be internal properties of God, facts of the world distinct from that of my actual existence as a creature.

I think the debate over divine simplicity becomes clearer if we introduce the concept of a state.  The state of a system is its location in the space of its possible ways of being.  State space has a close connection to classical philosophy’s concept of potency.  Suppose I have a machine that can act on its environment in either of two ways.  How to explain that it is acting in one way rather than the other?  Usually by invoking the internal state of the machine.  It seems we are trying to do the same thing with God.  God could have created either world A or world B.  How to explain that God in fact created world A?  Because He is Himself in state God-A, which we call in plain English “having decided to create world A”.

Classical theists do not agree.  They say that God is pure act, so His state space is a single point.  Does that not destroy His ability to act contingently?  Only if the only way for God to perform a contingent act is to be in a contingent state.  Admittedly, this is the way we usually think about beings behaving in non-necessary ways, but I know of no logical requirement that it must be so.  Would God’s actions then be reduced to bare, unexplainable facts?  Perhaps, but introducing internal states into God doesn’t solve this problem.  Consider, how did God get into state God-A?  Perhaps He just is in that state.  But then we have the a brute fact just like before; we have only relocated it into God rather than into His contingent action.  Shall we say that God is in state God-A because He put Himself there?  That is to say, in a very literal sense, that God “made up His mind”?  But how did God perform this action, itself a contingent action?  If it is because of the contingent state He was in?  But this would be a circular explanation.  But if God can perform one contingent action not in virtue of being in a contingent state–making up His mind–then why not just drop the step of making up His mind and allow Him to create contingently without introducing internal states into the Godhead?

The skeptic might object that this doesn’t work for God’s knowledge of His contingent acts.  To be in a particular mental state of knowing world A exists is simply what it means to know world A exists.  If we eliminate God’s state space, can He still be said to have knowledge of creation at all?  The skeptic will grant that our predication of knowledge in God is analogical and so not identical to knowledge as we experience it, but does this not stretch things too far, so that absent particularized intentional mental states one cannot speak of knowledge at all?  This is certainly true for cases we know in which the object exists independently of the subject.  However, it has often been suggested that God’s relation to His creatures is more closely analogous to our relation to our thoughts.  Our thoughts have no existence outside of us, and indeed there is no meaningful distinction between my knowledge of my thoughts and my thoughts themselves.

To put it another way, if we must find a home for the property of God’s knowing my existence, the classical theist would put it in myself rather than in God.

Some advantages of this formulation.  If God’s knowledge of the world is not distinct from the world, then that God cannot be mistaken is not only a metaphysical truth, but a logical truth.  There are no two things to correspond, so no failure of correspondence possible even in thought.  Similarly, if God’s willing the world to exist is not distinct from its existence, then it is logically impossible, not only metaphysically impossible, for His will to be frustrated.  Thirdly, we can make better sense of the believer’s expectations toward judgement.  The believer knows that in life his spiritual and moral state is objectively ambiguous, yet he anticipates and fears the day God will pronounce judgement on him as a resolution of his spiritual state, the conclusion of his narrative that assigns an overall significance to the whole.  How can God’s judgement serve this role if it is merely an outside opinion?  Indeed, when faced with a true mixture of good and bad, such as we all are, a truly wise and just outside opinion would not resolve the ambiguity but would recognize it.  Suppose instead that God’s judgment is not a property of Him–not a case of His “making up His mind”–but a property of the judged soul.  Then the sense of an intrinsic resolution begins to make sense.

The vampire’s dilemma; practices of natural law reasoning

A reader writes

Natural law is a difficult concept for me to accept because I think the concept of Goodness embedded in natural law is tautological, in a way that has weird, intuitively erroneous implications.
0.  I start with the premise that God could have created this world or any other.  (If we say that this is the Best of All Possible Worlds, then I have no problem with natural law, but I think this is contrary to the Church’s teachings, and anyway Thomas himself rejects it.  On the other hand, on a Thomistic conception of Goodness, I fail to see how *any* possible world could fail to be “good” in the relevant sense; thus, God’s own Goodness cannot be invoked to limit the scope of God’s discretion in Creating.)
Suppose there are vampires in the world.  These creatures are metaphysically human in the sense of being rational animals.  They are identical to us in almost every respect, but their nutrition consists exclusively in the blood of live human beings.  When a vampire feeds on a human, the human dies.  The options I see here are: (A) it is Good for the vampire to feed on humans; (B) insofar as vampires are metaphysically human, they are bound by the same natural law proscribing murder, and thus must not feed at all; and (C) God could not have created this world (an answer which in turn implicates the concerns noted above in “0.”)  What do you think?
An excellent question, because it allows us to think more generally about the proper way to apply natural law principles.  How does one “do” natural law reasoning?  The presentation of many natural law arguments in the literature (especially of the “frustrated function” sort) skip many steps, so that even if their conclusions are true, they appear to share the same structure as clearly erroneous arguments.
Below, I will accept premiss 0.  It is not impossible for God to create a world where rational beings face horrible zero sum games.

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The swarm of locusts

Vox Day links to a Time article

More than 800 men have joined a movement called “Abused in Scouting,” started by a group of lawyers who worried that the Boy Scouts of America were planning to file for bankruptcy, cutting short the timeline for victims to bring sex abuse claims against the organization in court. Those attorneys filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of one ex-Scout identified as “S.D.,” who said he was assaulted hundreds of times as a Boy Scout in Pennsylvania in the 1970s. The suit demands $50,000 in damages from both the Boy Scouts organization and the alleged abuser.

The extent of the Boy Scouts’ sex abuse problem first surfaced in 2010 when a judge ordered the organization to release its so-called “Perversion Files,” which listed complaints of abuse in the Scouts. In January, a child abuse expert hired by the Boy Scouts to analyze the files testified that she found 12,254 boys had reported experiencing sexual abuse at the hands of at least 7,800 alleged assailants between 1944 and 2016.

Now, hundreds more men are claiming they were abused by men who do not appear in the published “Perversion Files.” “It’s the largest pedophile ring on earth,” Tim Kosnoff, one of the lawyers representing alleged victims, said during a press conference on Tuesday. “The numbers we’re talking about now dwarf what we’ve seen in the Catholic Church cases.”

It would seem that they’re following the same swarming attack strategy that has been so successful against the Catholic Church.  Each accusation against an organization lowers the threshold of credulity for the next accuser, so the conmen pile onto one organization by their thousands.  A commitment to fight sexual abuse in one’s ranks is lethal, because it singles you out as an easy mark.  Of course, I am assuming that most of the accusations against scoutmasters are false, just as most accusations against priests are false; credulity at this point is irresponsibly naive.  Like with the Catholic Church, one starts the ball rolling by casting an absurdly long temporal net, all the way back to World War Fucking II, accusations so far back that the institution cannot possibly defend itself.  Especially important is to make sure the 1970’s are covered, because there really was a lot of adults having sex with adolescents that decade.

As I have said before, any organization that is half a century or more old and interacts with children is vulnerable to such attack.  Americans’ susceptibility to moral panics over pedophilia, and our absurdly late age of consent so that adults having sex with teenagers can be called “pedophiles”, makes it almost impossible to defend against.  For now, the Catholic Church, with its presumption of guilt against its priests and decades-long demonization by external and internal media, is still the accused of choice for the aspiring abuse survivor, but we now see that similar things will happen to other organizations.

Now that it’s not just us sub-human Catholics, can we talk about unfairness?  Why should today’s boys lose scouting opportunities because of something that may or may not have happened in the 70s?

Once again, we have a homosexual scandal (in this case, entirely so), and yet the moral status of homosexuals remains stratospheric.  Clearly the public’s potential to generalize only follows certain allowed paths.

If this sort of thing spreads, I suppose the outcome would be that no one would dare belong to an organization more than ten years old.  A liberal’s dream.  Making the world anew indeed.

At Unz

In March 2017 Israeli police arrested 22 ultra-Orthodox Jews for sex crimes against minors and women. In April 2019 Haaretz admitted that “There’s a Hole in the System. Israel Became a Haven for Suspected Jewish Sex Offenders.” The Israeli paper reported that “65 suspected sexual offenders [are] allegedly seeking refuge in Israel.”

Malka Leifer was formerly the principal of an orthodox Jewish girls school in Melbourne and has been charged with as many as 74 assaults against minors. The extradition battle over Malka Leifer, who fled Melbourne in 2008 with the help of some in the local ultra-Orthodox community, has dragged on for several years, frustrating her accusers.

In 2015 Michael Lesher, an orthodox Jewish attorney, published a book titled “Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities.” In the introduction Lesher writes that his book isn’t “about sexual abuse per se but on the dismal history of how far too many of those cases have been assiduously concealed both from the public and from the police: how influential rabbis and community leaders have sided with the alleged abusers against their victims; how victims and witnesses of sexual abuse have been pressured, even threatened, not to turn to secular law enforcement for help; how autonomous Jewish ‘patrols,’ displacing the role of official police in some large and heavily religious Jewish neighbourhoods, have played an inglorious part in the history of cover-ups; … how some Jewish (orthodox) communities have even succeeded in manipulating law enforcement officials to protect suspected abusers.”

We’ve grown used to accusations of cover-ups.  I doubt that Orthodox Jews are particularly prone to sexual misconduct, but given what’s happening to the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts, can you blame them for wanting to protect themselves?  I know it’s counterintuitive, but most groups are not enthusiastic when someone announces that he plans to drag their name through the mud and legally seize their assets.

The destruction of Orthodox Jewry, or even just the ultra-Orthodox, would be a loss to the human race.  Fortunately, the Orthodox Jews agree.  I read on Wikipedia that the Haredi population in the US is doubling every 20 years.  The Orthodox future is looking bright.