Some parallels between Boyd’s approach and my Peircean-Scotistic phenomenology:
aesthetic primacy = peircean normative sciences where aesthetics precede ethics which precede logic
dispositions = peircean thirdness
definitional dispositions = scotistic haecceity, dynamical, hartshornean nonstrict identity (only divine essence enjoying strict identity as Ens Necessarium)
constitutive dispositions = scotistic formal distinction coupled with distinctions of modal adequacy and modal a/temporality
Boyd: A beginning point is the recognition that the mechanistic (and hence deterministic) models of dispositions which tend to be most useful in science need not be considered ultimate. Their utility, and thus relative validity, can be affirmed, but the very recognition that we are talking metaphorically about an unpicturable reality suggests that no one model need be taken as exhaustively definitive for disclosing the nature of this reality. The legitimacy of models must be contextually determined.
JB: d’accord, ergo:
dispositions are variously in/determinative = pluralistic account of teloi (teleopotent, teleomatic, teleonomic and teleologic teleodynamics)
emergentist stance (sans supervenience) avoids both epistemic and ontological reduction or a priori conclusions that we have necessarily encountered epistemic in/determinables and/or ontological in/determinedness and to what degree
Boyd: It is the insight of Whitehead and Hartshorne that there is an aesthetic dimension to all experience which, I believe, can furnish us with another very fruitful model of dispositions. If beauty is indeed a priori, and if becoming is, therefore, essentially a becoming towards “aesthetic satisfaction,” then it is reasonable to construct a model of dispositions which reflects this dimension of reality. I believe that the Process concept of a “subjective aim towards aesthetic satisfaction” furnishes us with just such a model.
JB: again, d’accord
This comports with evolutionary epistemology, Jack Haught’s process aesthetic teleology, Peirce’s aesthetic primacy and my own (with Yong) axiological epistemology.
Boyd: The aesthetic model of disposition we are here arguing for seems to accomplish just this. It renders creative acts futuristically unpredictable but retroactively intelligible. It thereby fulfills Ross’ requirement for intelligible spontaneity by “circumscribing without determining” the act it explains, and it does this without necessitating either the postulation of an indeterminate world totality (Ross), an indeterminate Creator (Neville), or an unintelligible self-creation ex nihilo (Hartshorne).
JB: In semiotic terms, this marks the threshold where nonarbitrary signs — which function merely as icons and indexes (peircean firstness and secondness, respectively), such as in the algorithmic, teleonomic, end-directedness of sentient creatures — are supplemented by arbitrary signs, which function robustly as symbols (peircean thirdness), such as in the nonalgorithmic, teleologic, end-intendedness of sapient creatures.
It also marks the crossing of the telic threshold from what Peirce would call the finious and Mayr the teleomatic, beyond the teleonomic, even, to the truly teleological, or, in Deacon’s terms, from the merely thermodynamical and morphodynamical to the robustly teleodynamical, or, in classical Aristotelian terms, from formal to final causation.
Boyd: It seems, therefore, that one may accept the “principle of continuity” and yet reject psychicalism.
JB: Yes. A priori applying a root metaphor proves too much, especially if it commits to a philosophy of mind stance or is too specific, not vague enough (like field).
Boyd: It is, we again see, Hartshorne, and not the phenomenologists, who commits the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness.”
JB: Put differently, it is one thing to adopt an emergentist stance, quite another to smuggle in supervenience with distinctions, for example, between weak and strong emergence. It’s an unwarranted move from an exploratory heuristic to an a prioristic explanatory metaphysic. The move should be characterized as a fallibilist, metaphysical hypothesis and then tested and argued and not presented as self-evident.
Boyd: Because of the way experienced is defined, the God-world relation lies “beyond the accident of God’s will.” While the precise way non-divine reality exists is influenced by the divine will and is contingent, the fact that there is a contingent non-divine reality is in no way the result of God’s will. It is a metaphysical, and thus eternal, necessity. The Christian doctrine of “creation ex nihilo” is thus impossible. So also, then, is the Christian doctrine of God as self-sufficient unto Godself completely impossible. The supposed a priori structure of rationality, and hence being, requires this.
JB: Any reductionistic bent will a priori commit us to various types of modal and dependent contingenies and/or necessities. Philosophically, various creatio accounts remain live options? It needn’t be decided theologically either.
Boyd: Both being and becoming are capable of being exemplified concretely and abstractly.
JB: By categorically expanding our temporal modalities beyond the abstract (1ns) and concrete (2ns) to recognize the dispositional (3ns) as real, we can exemplify being as concrete and essentially distinct and becoming as dispositional and formally distinct.
Boyd: As we shall see more fully in our exposition below, an adequate metaphysical account of the structure of experienced reality requires the acceptance of the ontological parity of being and becoming.
JB: There’s a definite parity insofar as each entity remains irreducibly triadic, as abstract, concrete and dispositional. As we’ve recognized, previously, the dispositional invites disambiguation as it vaguely refers to teloi that can variously be weakly finious or strongly final causes, variously in/determinative or even metaphysically necessary.
Boyd: And finally, while we have defended Hartshorne’s view that aesthetic value is a priori, we have argued that his correlation of aesthetic intensity with synthesized multiplicity is not necessary. One can, rather, distinguish between the subjective intensity of an experience, and the expression of that experience: the former admits of an acme point, the latter does not.
JB: I find the distinction between the intensity and scope of aesthetic experience helpful, as well as its overflow into contingent illustrations. It seems a recapitulation of Scotus’ invocation of a univocity of being in conjunction with infinity, or the peircean-scotistic formal distinction coupled with further distinctions of modal adequacy and a/temporality, all which preserve the analogy of being, as any infinite instantiation accords a qualitative difference. This intensity thus comprises an essential divine aspect, while the scope would refer to an extrinsic, constitutive relation.
Boyd: Can God be necessary and contingent in different respects, but not in such a way that God’s necessary features are merely abstract?
JB: Our triadic distinctions allow for God’s necessary aspects to be essentially distinct regarding, for example, necessary dispositions and intensity of aesthetic experience, while any contingent aspects would, while real, be only formally distinct and inseparable, for example, illustrative expressions and scope of aesthetic experiences.
These distinctions, then, will impact our accounts of divine essences, hypostases, persons, paterology, christology, pneumatology and soteriology, making our classical understandings of radical grace, radical freedom and radical intimacy even more intelligible.
Divine benevolence (normatively & sacramentally) would mediate between divine omniscience (descriptively & eschatologically) and divine omnipresence (interpretively & ecclesiologically) to effect divine omnipathy (evaluatively & soteriologically), all realized via divine omnipotence (contemplatively & sophiologically).
In human anthropology, as imago Dei, the normative mediates between the descriptive and interpretive to effect the evaluative as augmented by the contemplative (self-transcendence).
Boyd: Prima facie, then, no obvious absurdity is committed in maintaining that God can be, in one sense, necessarily actually infinite while further maintaining that God can also be, at the same time but in another sense, contingently actually infinite. This is, from another angle, simply to say that God can have a necessary eternal perspective on Godself which may (it is a contingent matter) include a perspective which encompasses non-divine perspectives. God is eternally and necessarily defined by this one’s eternal experience of Godself, and this experience may encompass, and find expression in, the interaction of non-divine creatures.
JB: This articulates Joe Bracken’s move, which employs a field-theoretic approach to preserve transcendence while providing for an immanence that remains consistent with indispensable classical and trinitarian insights.
Boyd: The design and epistemic arguments, we have seen, arise out of the concept of reality as necessarily ordered and necessarily knowable. They build upon the third, fourth, and fifth foundational statements of Hartshorne’s system. Together they attempt to demonstrate that a necessary cosmic Orderer and necessary cosmic Knower exist. What must now be explicated is the type of power and knowledge which these arguments necessitate.
JB: Much of this section presupposes, not uncontroversially, the principle of sufficient reason, which is fine as a theological leap but philosophically needs to be argued. Similarly, we cannot a priori know whether the cosmos presents as brute fact or, as a whole, necessarily, begs explanation. In other words, the fallacy of composition may or may not apply. Accordingly, alternate trinitarian field-theoretic accounts, whether creative, co-creative or pro-creative via ex nihilo, ex profundis or multitudinae, may remain viable. They would have implications regarding any problem of evil. Any defense will still require both kenotic-free will as well as metaphysical constraints on divine knowledge, power and freedom as discussed elsewhere.
Again, as regarding any essential or voluntary kenosis, we best be mindful of the plurality of teloi which God need or need not sustain in noncoercively interacting with freedom. In my view, it is only the robustly teleologic dynamics of human freedom that need be sustained via divine constraint. Other teleodynamics, then, whether quantum teleopotency, inanimate teleomaticity or biological teleonomicity would remain subject to divine prerogatives whenever they are not otherwise inextricably intertwined with some realization of personal freedom or agency. As with the qualifications discussed elsewhere regarding omniscience (of future peircean 3ns, necessities and probabilities), this makes our hopes regarding eschatological realizations more real, our theosis more pressing, our petitionary prayer more urgent, our recognition of the miraculous more ubiquitous.
Boyd: Hence we have arrived at what constitutes the outline for a trinitarian dispositional metaphysics, grounded on a priori truths, and compatible with the dynamic, non-substantival process categories of modernity as well as with Scripture and the Christian tradition. The relationship between the Trinity and the world process is that the creative process of the self-sufficient God graciously grounds and encompasses the creative process of the world. And the ultimate result is the world’s redemptive sharing in the eternal self-delight which characterizes and constitutes the creative self-becoming of the triune God.
JB: And why wouldn’t we all say, Amen!?
Would it be fair to say, within Thomism, that, while God’s relation to creation is not real, but logical, it is still real-ist? It implies no absolute causal disjunction, only that, for example, creation would be “an effect proper to no known cause.”
As such, we could only ever aspire to successful references to, even while in principle precluded from providing successful descriptions of, G-d. Put differently, God’s logical relation is not without foundation and we can make true statements, both literally and analogically, about God. The literal statements, though, can only ever be predicated apophatically.
In other words, the real vs logical distinction does not threaten God’s eminent intelligibility even though it preserves G-d’s utter incomprehensibility.
After all, we have a rather robust phenomenology of creaturely participation in and partaking of divine operations, such as regarding the Incarnation, the Sacraments, pneumatological gifts, soteriological graces, theosis, eschatological and proleptic realizations, the miraculous, petitionary prayer and on and on. These Divine Presences in no way threaten Divine Simplicity even as they donatively gift us, transforming us from image to likeness.
More succinctly, these Presences don’t differ essentially, only constitutively. Hence, we realize a Eucharistic Presence in the People Gathered, the Word Proclaimed, the Sacred Species, none substantially distinct, only tran-substantial. Theotic divine energies gift presence — not via distinct ousia, but — via met-ousia. Divine contingencies thus only ever refer to constitutive and not essential relations.
That reminds me of Fr Norris Clarke’s approach, where God’s immutable in the absolute order, but mutable in the relative order. God’s extrinsic, constitutive relations don’t threaten the infinite perfection of divine personal being. This differs from Whitehead and Hartshorne’s accounts of Abstract/Primordial immutability and Concrete/Consequent mutability, where creation is needed to complete God. Clarke’s God doesn’t “need” the world.
I think this gets at some of the confusion between Aquinas and Scotus. Some say that Scotus (re univocity) was addressing semantical issues, while Aquinas (re analogy) was concerned with things. If so, then Scotus certainly doesn’t threaten the Thomistic analogy of being. Any Scotistic instantiation of infinity ultimately entails a qualitative difference. Furthermore, arguably, though he conceives infinity positively, it’s really another apophatic negation — not finite — like not mutable. Mostly, though, Aquinas’ analogy thus does not devolve into equivocity, as if our analogical predications could not make successful references to God, precisely because they’re coupled with literal apophatic statements. Instead, it protects us from the idolatry in imagining that we’ve ever made exhaustively successful descriptions of God. Not sure I said this very well. I guess that, consistent with Fr Clarke, we might say that any differences in God’s behaving vis a vis extrinsic, constitutive relations to creatures, would not entail differences in God’s being vis a vis intrinsic, essential aspects of the Trinity. Those extrinsic relations effect our becoming in likeness to God, but no divine becoming.