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God, Supernatural Kinds, and the Incarnation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2008

Thomas D. Senor
Affiliation:
University of Arkansas and Georgetown University, Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University, Washington DC 20057

Extract

Thinking about God often leads to thinking about ‘God’. And it has never been completely clear how best to understand this little English word. Traditionally, ‘God’ has been taken to be either a description or a name. However, a third option has recently captured the attention of philosophical theologians. It is claimed that just as one should think of, say, ‘humanity’ as a kind term, so one should think of ‘God’, or perhaps ‘divinity’, as a kind term. But given the tight link between semantics and metaphysics, if one is tempted to understand ‘humanity’ or ‘divinity’ as kind terms, then one will naturally begin to think of humanity and divinity as kinds. Characterizing divinity this way, a primary task of philosophical theology is to give a characterization of the divine kind-essence. In this paper, I want to consider the claim that divinity is profitably construed as a kind-essence, and argue that the way that this has typically been understood is not altogether adequate. I shall then present and develop an alternative understanding of this kind-essence approach that takes the analogy of `supernatural kinds’ and natural kinds much more seriously. I will conclude by considering some objections.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1991

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References

1 See Alston, William P., ‘Referring to God’, The International journal for the Philosophy of Religion, XXIV (11 1988), 113–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and reprinted in A'ston, collection of essays Divine Nature and Human Language (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), pp. 103–17.Google Scholar

2 Morris, Thomas V., The Logic of God Incarnate (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), pp. 22–3.Google Scholar

3 Morris, Thomas V., ‘The Metaphysics of God Incarnate’, in Feenstra, Ronald J. and Plantinga, Cornelius Jr., eds, Trinity, Incarnation and Atonement: Philosophical and Theological Essays (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), pp. 110–27;Google Scholar the quotation is on p. 114.

4 See Kripke, Saul, Naming and Necessity (Cambridge, MA; Harvard University Press, 1972)CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Putnam, Hilary ‘The Meaning of “Meaning”’, reprinted in the second volume of Putnam's collected papers, entitled Mind, Language, and Reality (Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 215–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 This notion of a ‘standard property’ is similar to, but slightly different from what Morris, , in The Logic of God Incarnate, calls a ‘common property’.Google Scholar

6 Morris, , The Logic of God IncarnaleGoogle Scholar, particularly Chapter Three. Swinburne, Richard has recently taken this same position in ‘Could God Become Man?’ in Vesey, Godfrey, ed., The Philosophy in Christianity (Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 5370.Google Scholar

7 In Feenstra, and Plantinga, , op cit. pp. 128–52.Google Scholar

8 Faith and Philosophy, VI 2 (04, 1989), 218–23.Google Scholar

9 It should be noted, as Feenstra does, that Morris is the originator of this suggestion, which, as we shall see, he eventually rejects.

10 While such sentences can still be seen as necessarily true, they will not express de dicto necessities. More on this below in my reply to objection 4.

11 Taliaferro, Charles, ‘Divine Cognitive Power’, International journal for the Philosophy of Religion, XVIII (1985), 133–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

12 Unger, Peter, Philosophical Relativity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), pp. 84ff.Google Scholar

13 Wolterstorff, Nicholas, ‘Are Concept-Users World Makers?’, in Tomberlin, James E., ed., Philosophical Perspectives, I: Metaphysics, 1987 (Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview Pub. Co., 1987), p. 248.Google Scholar

14 If propositions [1]–[3] are read as synthetic de dicto necessities, the SK advocate has no reason to deny them. I am indebted to Jim Taylor for demanding that I recognize this point.

15 I have benefited from conversations on these issues with Jim Taylor, Richard Lee and William Alston, and from electronic ‘conversations’ with Scott Sturgeon and Dean Zimmerman.

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