Whatever begins to exist has a cause

Consider the following argument:

  1. If it’s possible for a thing to come into existence without a cause, this possibility is grounded in a property of the thing itself, or a property of nothingness.
  2. This possibility is not grounded in a property of the thing itself, nor in a property of nothingness.
  3. Therefore, it is not possible for a thing to come into existence without a cause.

That possibilities are grounded in properties of things seems quite intuitive. In (1), we exclude the option of there being a property of an external thing that grounds this possibility, for it’s difficult to see how that would be a case of something coming into existence without a cause. (2) follows from the fact that only things that exist can exemplify properties. Nothingness, since it is the absence of all being, therefore doesn’t have any properties. Nor does the thing itself exemplify any properties prior to its existing.

Divine simplicity and the bootstrapping objection

Divine simplicity is the thesis that God has no parts, and that he is identical with his nature, his existence, and all his properties. Absolute creationism is the thesis that abstract objects exist and that God created each one of them [1]. Now, without divine simplicity, we can raise the bootstrapping objection against absolute creationism: logically prior to God creating anything (abstract objects included) he exemplifies the property of omnipotence, and therefore, the property of omnipotence exists externally to God prior to God creating it. Clearly, this is a contradiction.

However, if divine simplicity is coherent and true (which we assume for the sake of argument), then God himself is every one of the divine properties. Therefore, these properties do not exist logically prior to themselves, and there is no bootstrapping problem. For example, omnipotence exists, since God exists and God is omnipotence. Thus, God is free to create all the remaining abstract objects.


  1. There’s a nuance here: as far as I’m aware, it is typically understood that what makes abstract objects abstract is that they can’t stand in causal relations. However, if they’re being created by God, clearly these objects are standing in causal relations, and so perhaps calling them abstract isn’t strictly correct. I’ll just use the term to designate objects which are typically understood to be abstract (ie. propositions, properties, universals, etc.).

Middle knowledge or Molinism?

[UPDATE: I’ve actually modified the related post since I wrote this one. I’m leaving this post here, though, because I still think it’s got an interesting thought in it]

In my recent post on God’s providence I discussed a view which I called “middle knowledge”. To some this might have been confusing, for this position is also sometimes called “Molinism”, after the Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina. Molina is responsible for introducing the doctrine of middle knowledge to reconcile libertarian free will with a strong view of divine providence, and as such the term Molinism is often used to designate the position I was talking about. Admittedly, that probably would have been a better label to use, although I tend to use the term “middle knowledge” to avoid confusion between Molinism as philosophical framework for providence and Molinism as a collection of doctrines about soteriology. This has happened in the past where people use the word “Calvinism” where they actually should use the word “compatibilism.”

One reason one might prefer the term Molinism, is because it more clearly encompasses the theses of libertarian free will and middle knowledge. While I was thinking about this, it dawned on me that while middle knowledge doesn’t technically include the thesis of libertarian free will, it does entail something very much like it: first, recall that the facts in God’s middle knowledge are contingent. This means that what agents freely do is not causally determined by their circumstances or God, which entails some form of the Principle of Contrary Choice. Second, recall that the facts are not determined by God. What else could determine the truth of these facts? Well, us! So something like libertarian free will plausibly follows from the doctrine of middle knowledge.

Of course this is really all just a matter of semantics. For the remainder of the blog post series, I’ll probably use start using “Molinism” as the term for the view.

Divine simplicity and constituent ontologies

I’ve recently begun reading about Aristotelean-Thomistic philosophy. In A-T metaphysics, the doctrine of divine simplicity has a central place. This is the doctrine that God has no parts, be they physical or metaphysical. From this it follows that he is identical to his nature, to his existence, and to each of the divine attributes. Now this may sound really strange to some, but I recently read the SEP article on Divine Simplicity, and the distinction between constituent and non-constituent ontologies is both informative and helpful in making sense of divine simplicity. Worth a read.