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GOD, EMPEROR AND RELATIVE IDENTITY Concerning the truth of "supernatural revelations," Thomas Hobbes says, we are not to renounce our sense, and experience; nor, that which is the undoubted word of God, our natural reason. For they are the talents which he hath put into our hands to negotiate, till the coming again of our blessed savior; and therefore not to be folded up in a napkin of an implicit faith, but employed in the purchase of justice, peace, and true religion; that is to say, which cannot by natural reason be either demonstrated or confuted; yet there is nothing contrary to it; but when it seemth so, the fault is either in our unskillful interpretation, or erroneous ratiocination (Leviathan , III, 35). In this passage, Thomas Hobbes endorses an attitude and project for philosophical theology quite in keeping with the spirit of medieval philosophy. According to St. Thomas, one of the projects of philosophical theology is to show that the dogmas of faith "are not opposed to natural reason," in other words, are not contradictory (Summa Contra Gentiles (hereafter SCG) 1.7.9; IV. 1; and Commentary on Boethius' "De Trinitate"). This enterprise consists for the most part in showing that certain supposed contradictions do not in fact follow from dogmas; it is largely a matter of conceptual analysis and clarification since seeming contradictions are symptoms of confused concepts . Given that propositions of faith are not false, "whatever arguments are brought forward against the doctrines of faith are conclusions incorrectly derived... And so, there exists the possibility to answer them."1 In this paper I shall answer some arguments directed against an explanation of the consistency of the doctrine of the Trinity that I have offered recently,2 and thereby help clarify our concepts 1 SCG I. 7: Ex hoc quo evidenter colligitur, quaecumque argumenta contra fidei documenta ponantur, haec ex principiis primis naturae inditis per se notis non recte procederé. Unde nee demonstrationis vim habent, sed vel sunt rationes probabiles vel sophisticae. Et sic ad eo solvenda locus relinquitur. 2 "Identity and Trinity," The Journal of Religion, 58 (1978), 169-172. God, Emperor and Relative Identity181 of God and person. My article consists of three parts. In Part I, I state why the doctrine of the Trinity appears contradictory: I summarize my way of dispelling the apparent contradiction and mention one further advantage of my solution. In Part II, I develop an objection to my view. In Part III, I reply to that objection by drawing upon a passage from Tertullian's Adversus Praxean. The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity includes the following four propositions : (i)There is only one God. (2)The Father is God. (3)The Son is God. (4)The Father is not the Son. It is easy to show, within the standard predicate calculus, that (i)-(4) form an inconsistent set if identity is construed in the ordinary way (see "Identity and Trinity," 169-172). In particular, (i)-(3) entail (4') The Father is the Son which Sabellius in effect defended and which contradicts (4) (see Appendix A). And (1), (2) and (4) entail (3') The Son is not God which Arms in effect defended and which contradicts (3) (see Appendix B). However, if identity is always relative to a general term, as Peter Geach says it is, then (4) and (4') are incomplete sentences, expressing incomplete thoughts, which, as such, do not have truthvalues ; and, when (4) and (4') are properly expanded, they become respectively (5)The Father is not the same person as the Son and (6)The Father is the same God as the Son. So expanded, the original Arian and Sabellian contradictions dissolve. (3') simply does not follow from (1), (2) and (5); and (5) and (6) are not formally contradictory. Thus the initial thrusts of Arius and Sabellius are parried.3 3 In "Identity and Trinity," p. 175, n. 5, I suggested that William Ockham seemed to have espoused a form of relative identity and referred to a passage in Summa Totius Logicae. An anonymous referee has bolstered my suggestion by 1 82A. P. MARTINICH Further, when identity is relativized, the principle of substitutivity of identicals must be abandoned. Although...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 180-191
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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