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.).

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.