Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reason, Logic and the Divine Essence: A Short History of God's Reason and Will


Reason, Logic and the Divine Essence: A Short History of God's Reason and Will
A Response to A Question about the Relation between Human Reason and Universal Logic
by Ryan Haecker

Logic may be described, in theistic terms, as the uncreated eternal form of the divine reason. The reason of God is eternal, along with all of God's attributes, and, not separately co-operative, but identical in-and-with the simple unicity of God's essence. It is possible to abstractly separate and oppose God's reason to God's will, so that the divine will may be thought to be the prior cause of the divine reason, or, alternatively, that the divine reason may be thought to be the prior form of the divine will. This abstract division and opposition of the divine attributes of reason and will results in the aforementioned 'chicken and egg problem', in which the chicken is the generative cause of the egg just as the egg is the generative cause of the chicken in an endless regress of circular causation, because God's reason is understood to be just as necessary as God's will, and each are the prior conditions for either of the other divine attributes. The vicious infinite regress of circular causation may, however, be terminated in the simple unicity of God, in which all the divine attributes are not separated, opposed and extrinsically causing of one another, but are rather united, coincident, and intrinsically inter-causing of one another, in the absolute image of the interdependent causation of the mind. Like the intellect and the will in the mind, the divine reason and the divine will are equally necessary as the form and the cause of the divine attributes. Just as nothing can be without a cause, and nothing can be without a form, so we may understand that there may be no divine attributes without the coincidence of both the will and the reason.

The first philosophers to identify logic with God were Parmenides and Plato: Parmenides located the eternality and necessity of thought and speech in the indivisible and immutable eternal being; Plato identified the conditions for the truth of knowledge with the eternal forms, or Ideas. In the Parmenides Plato described how the very possibility of knowledge in thought and speech requires eternal forms (135b8), and in the Philebus Plato describes how the Ideas form a integrated network, which may be fittingly called the divine reason, or logos (30c). St. Augustine of Hippo, Boethius and the Church Fathers had followed the Neo-Platonists, from Xenocrates to Porphyry, in identifying Logic with the Platonic Ideas in the mind of God, and the totality of Logic with the divine reason, the Word, or logos, of the divine person of Christ. However in the High Middle Ages, there arose a scholastic controversy concerning the dependence or independence of logic upon the mind of God. St. Thomas Aquinas described a cooperation of the divine reason and the divine will, in which the reason informed the purposive direction of the will, for nothing can be desired to be will unless it is known - nihil volitum nisi praecognitum.

However, the Franciscan theologians, such as Giles of Rome, Duns Scotus, and most emphatically William of Ockham, radically separated the divine will from the divine reason to preserve the free autonomy of the will, and asked how God might will to create the rules of logic that are necessary for reason itself. It was proposed that, perhaps, the laws of logic were co-operative and co-eternal to God, so that the divine reason and the divine will were abstractly separated and opposed to one another. This conception divides the divine reason from the divine will, and opposes the absolute necessity of the cause to the absolute rationality of the form. It results in an absolute dualism, of the logical necessity of reason and the causal necessity of the will, in which either the pole of reason suppresses the will in rationalism, or the pole of the will suppresses the reason in fideism.

This is how the dualisms of the divine reason and the divine will, motivated by Franciscan voluntarism, toppled the Thomistic synthesis with the consequences of Late Medieval Nominalism, Protestant Fideism - Sole Fide - and Enlightenment Rationalism. Leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason expresses the coincidence of the cause and the form of the divine will and the divine reason, in which the form of reason is a sufficient cause of all things. The Principle of Sufficient Reason is abolutized when it is attributed to all things, and is, in this way, classically thought to express the coincidence of divine reason and will in all of the operations of the intelligible universe. The German Idealists, such as Kant, Schelling and Hegel, sought to speculatively re-establish the coherent cooperation of Enlightenment Rationalism with the Franciscan free autonomy of the will. F.W.J. Schelling contended, in lecture On Eternal Truths (1850), that Kant was the first to "master the standpoint" in which God was both the Idea of all reason and the cause of its ideal being, or the coincidence of the formal reason and the causal will of things:

Kant shows, then, that to the rational determination of things there belongs the Idea of the all-inclusive possibility or essential aggregate (Inbegriff) of all predicates. This is what the post-Kantian philosophy means when it speaks of the Idea as such, without further determination... To say that "God is the Idea" does not mean: "He is himself only Idea," but rather: "With respect to the Idea (the Idea in that high sense, where it is all things qua possibility), he is the cause of its being, the cause that the Idea Is, aitia tau efnai in the Aristotelian expression.
- Friedrich Schelling, On the Source of Eternal Truths, Abhandlung aber die Quelle der ewigen Wahrheiten, in Schelling's Siimmtliche Werke, 1856-1861, v. 11, pp. 575-590

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