Nearly a half-century ago, I spent my undergraduate & graduate years immersed in radically reductive neuroscientific pursuits. I pursued the physiological & biochemical precursors of behaviors – from flatworms to rodents.
Eventually, I narrowly focused on avian neuroendocrinology. For example, we knew what to inject when to make birds fly north or south.
Any philosophical interpretations of such empirical findings have only ever been a lifelong avocational pursuit, which has included philosophies of mind.
Investigations into philosophical, anthropological & systematic theologies came much later, after I retired from banking.
Those led me to Peirce, Maritain & Lonergan, thanks to a couple of friends who, like me, were Catholic Charismatics, one of whom introduced me to a similarly minded Pentecostal friend & collaborator.
Isn’t life strange?
Otherwise, I mostly explored ALL of these interests w/friends, who self-described as religious naturalists (non-militantly agnostic, nontheist & atheist), contributors to journals like Zygon.
It was those friends who reinforced my Peircean-bent & shared my emergentist stance. What differentiated our stances was that my reading of the book of nature was temperamentally Franciscan.
B/c of Bonaventure & Scotus, mine was a radically emanationist emergentism, somewhat innoculated from facile analogies & spurious reductionisms by Dionysius, Eriugena, Abelard, the Victorines, Franciscans & Cusanus.
So, I’m suspicious of distinctions like weak vs strong emergence & supervenience.
All the way up & down the great chain of being we encounter aporetic layers of trans-semiotic realities, including such horizons as quantum, cosmic, life, sentience & language origins.
To navigate these horizons, our semantic references, ineluctably, must variously include terms that are analogical, univocal, apophatic, indefinite, vague & mediating, to frame heuristics for such as probabilistic causalities, statistical regularities & dis/continuities. If this is true proximately & temporally, then, trust me, it’ll be true in spades for ultimate & eternal realities.
Our phenomenological meta-heuristics, ergo, best ontologically bracket reality’s manifold & multiform aporia & eschew rushes to metaphysical closure.
I emphasized “mediating” not only as a nod to Peirce, Cusanus, Dionysius & the early Neoplatonists, philosophically, but as an embrace of the Christology of Cyril & Maximus. These folks gifted me my Cosmotheandric PanSEMIOentheism.
Now, don’t get me wrong or take umbrage as I insist that our sylly syllogisms often prove too much, say more than we can possibly know & tell untellable stories. This is not to say that every analytic pursuit’s an epistemic pretense. We only engage analytic conceits if we imagine that such formal deliverances gift us indubitable conclusions, when, instead, they suggest a pragmatic reasonableness.
And, while I still happily enjoy the fruit of Trinitological excursions, contemplating the emanating One, & so thoroughly enjoyed my early reductionist pursuits of the Many, I’ve now returned, philosophically & theologically, to that Mediator, Whom I encountered in my First Holy Communion, where I realized in my little heart & will, what I would only later better apprehend in my head & intellect: the hypostatic union, coincidentia oppositorum & communicatio idiomatum of our Eternally Creating Triune Creator.
Innascibility doesn’t constitute the Father for Bonaventure. It’s the logically unavoidable positive implication of same, the reality of The Sourcer, which does.
And that neither excludes nor presupposes an idioma like paternity.
The F’s primal act of sourcing would be logically but not temporally prior to the essence.
The Sourcer does refer as a logically prior agential verbal nominalization of that hypostasis, naming Who. But vis a vis the essence, innascibility or Unsourced refers, instead, as a logically prior verbal participle, an adjective qualifying Who in terms of how.
That’s to say that it provides semantic meaning logically (not temporally) prior to the ousia and apart from the semantic job it indeed does, further in our logical (not temporal) sequence, as a differentiating hypostatic idioma.
For Trinitarian logic, it helps me to think more consistently if I restrict my thoughts to verbals, since we’re referring to a noncomposite Actus Purus.
Also, I default to the more active & present forms, like gerunds, infinitives & nominalizations for the “whats” of hypostases & adjectival participles for the “hows” of hypostases, i.e. idiomata, & “hows” of ousia, ie propria.
All predications of hypostases in quid (what) must be analogical; in quale (how) – semantically univocal & infinite.
It helps, too, to ditch all verbals derived from “is,” including the infinitive “to be” and “being,” ie employ E-Prime. Or, when too dang hard, at least, to qualify such predications with Dionysian distinctions.
To say that hypostases = ousia, then, is like saying that “they are how they do.” Not bad. That qualifies a noun with an adjective, where the = represents some form of is or to be. However, ineluctably implicit in such grammatical constructions, there is a conception of potency reducing to act (as if it could be or have been otherwise). That implication’s not just imprecise but contradictory. Typically, while idiomata have been said to be “carried by” and propria “added to” hypostases, that erroneously implicates idiomata as entities and propria as potencies.
So, we best resort to E-Prime and also refer to the F considering the innascible or unsourced using
a) gerunds or nominalizations as agential, proper nouns w/definite articles for subjects – individual hypostases; e.g. hypostatically, The Sourcer;
b) participles as adjectives for essential propria & hypostatic idiomata; e.g. idiomatically, Unsourced;
c) direct objects for relations, including to Oneself, as action recipients; e.g. relationally, The Sourcer (self) or the sourced (others); and
d) the underlying action verb of those gerunds & participles; e.g. actively, Sources.
Thus, coherently, with no reference to paternity, “the Unsourced Sourcer sources the sourced” (but Unsourced needn’t exclude Self-Sourcing).
Using a quasi-Dionysian formulation, where:
God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally;
God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically; and
God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really.
The F is | not sourced | is true apophatically & literally, as an idioma, adjectivally.
The F is | The Unsourced Sourcer | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically, as an hypostasis or agential nominalization.
The F is neither | The Unsourced Sourcer | nor | not sourced | is true, for we can also refer to the F as The Self-Sourcing Sourcer, both in self-relation to The Sourcer and in relation to all sourced realities, both divine (non-determinate & self-determinate) and determinate.
Might innascibility have positive implications beyond pure negation?
Some constitutive relation(s) must be added to our grammar of hypostases & idioma, otherwise we’ll unavoidably implicate the reduction of some potency to act.
Any articulation of a beginning can’t avoid begging questions due to either a circular reference, causal disjunction or infinite regression. Our unavoidably triadic account relies on the validity of self-reference. For we’re otherwise precisely about the business of avoiding causal disjunctions and halting infinite regressions. And, just because we’ve constructed a tautology doesn’t mean it’s not true. It only means we’ve added no new information to our system. So, our Trinitological heuristics remain semi-formal, suggesting that our God-conceptions are not unreasonable, not demonstrating proofs.
One reason I struggle with translation of others’ Trinity talk is that I don’t interpret it from the same angle, because, out of habit, I’m unreflectively translating it on the fly.
For starters, my default bias is to presuppose that the Capps, Cyril, Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus, Eriugena, Scotus, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Palamas & Bulgakov (w/fewer tweaks than many imagine) can be reconciled – not just creedally, but – in their speculative systematic opinions, though not ruling out exceptions.
Note on properly conceiving the Monarchy of the Father
Gregory of Nyssa: If you transfer to the divine dogmas the principle of differentiation, which you recognize in human affairs, between ousia and hypostasis, you will not go astray. (EpPet. 3)
Well, we’ll get the general idea, anyway. But if we don’t recognize the infinite analogical interval between nondeterminate & determinate being, we’ll push the analogy too far.
I previously brought up the Scotistic idiom of ousia as primary substance, saying it was more felicitous in that it foregrounded how the ousia was “like” and “unlike” both primary & secondary substances.
While all agree natures subsist in hypostases (aren’t floating around as abstractions or entities), there’s a difference between the immanent universals exemplified by divine being & those instantiated in determinate being, reduced from potencies to acts, formally.
Grammatically, we typically refer to such reductions in terms of indefinite common nouns being delimited by definite proper nouns. Hence, our conversations: Is God like a substance sortal or just an attribute among attributes when predicating divine hypostases? As a proper name, can God denominate only the F or each person?
What might change, however, when there are no reductions from potency to act, eternally so? Our analogy between divine & human persons must recognize a difference between irreducibly immanent & reducibly instantiated universals. There’s no indefinite potency becoming definite, whether essential propria (attributes) or hypostatic idiomata (e.g. relation, haecceity, emanation, + ?).
If one wants to apply an analogue of common (god) & proper nouns (The God), that’s intuitive, maybe preferable in some contexts. But, since via eternally pure acts, the divine persons exemplify an immanently universal essence, also analogously, as a primary-like substance, the ousia’s like a subject in that sense, justifying a proper signification, God.
Creedal Trinitology is not:
a) tritheistic, b/c, when it comes to how & what the persons do, those aspects constitute intrinsic perfections that are identical in each & every Person, both ontologically & axiologically; hence, the One God-ness of the Divine Nature;
b) modalist b/c, when it comes to Who does those intrinsically perfect things, there are three persons doing them Who are really different in ways (aetiologically & economically) that don’t otherwise constitute perfections of God-ness; e.g. the relational aspects of the emanational Divine Singularity & personal MOF and incarnational aspects of the S & HS;
c) subordinationist, b/c, creedally, the persons are absolutely identical, ontologically & axiologically, and their only real differences are aetiological & economic, which don’t involve intrinsic perfections.
A Divine Singularity Ontologically Prior to even the MOF, logically not temporally … perhaps consistent w/our Bonaventuran stance
I can conceive The Father as The Self-Sourcing Sourcer, relationally constituted emanationally, which would be logically prior to personal relationality (opposing relations) and as analogous to that essentially ordered causal series we invoke vis a vis creation. I say analogous to distinguish between those intratrinitarian, aetiological ur-kenotic acts of the divine esse naturale and those of the economic kenotic acts divine esse intentionale.
That primal emanational relation could be a self-relationality, which wouldn’t be a pious ad hoc exception, b/c Trinitarian personal relational conceptions necessarily include the persons sharing their love for the essence as an object of their love fully in each Subject, hence, in the other Subjects as well as in Oneself.
For the Father, as Primal Font, emanationally, His logically prior constitutive relation would include His love for the essence in Himself.
This would be more of a Divine Singularity than the MOF, which is intrinsically other-relational, although still a logical not temporal ontological distinction. And it would still not be a great-making shared property of the Divine Nature, only an aeitiological superordination. It would be accounted as an idioma marking a real distinction from other divine persons even as the F, eternally, remains identical to the other persons, essentially, in shared nature.
This divine singularity, like the MOF, would be an unshared idioma, in principle, so like a really distinct Subject, Who’s not otherwise Subjectively distinct re any substantial (natural or essential) intrinsic perfections shared, in principle, as divine propria.
Consistent with the view that the One God of MOF & Divine Nature entails equivocations of Oneness and not of the term, God, which admits of virtual not real distinctions between the Trinity & the Divine Nature:
Blocking inferences to subordinationism suggests the persons are identical in great-making properties or intrinsic perfections.
Idiomata, unshareable in principle, would not be great-making.
Simplicity would refer to pure acts of intrinsic perfection, i.e. involving no reductions to potency of the divine esse naturale & no change in the divine aesthetic intensity.
DDS need not refer to the divine esse intentionale, which would determine changes only in the divine aesthetic scope.
This would allow for a (thin) divine passibility, i.e. divine responses, for example, to creaturely supplications, as chosen from ‘among’ an array perfectly good equipoised optimalities (ergo, no all or nothing “best possible world” reality choosing in an either-or manner ‘between’ higher & lesser goods) via divine energeia (formally distinct from essence).
What would further differentiate the nature and propria from the persons and idiomata, then, is not any HOW that marks intrinsic perfections, aesthetic intensities or great making properties, but only aetiological ontological distinctions like emanational & personal relations, which refer to the persons logically not temporally and implicate no differentials in dignity. The persons are thus constituted relationally, identified by a relative indentity, making them really different, hypostatically. These refer to aetiological distinctions.
But, as far as intrinsic perfections go, HOW they act is in an absolutely identical way. This refers to an ontological distinction.
So, the One God of the MOF might best be thought of in terms of relative identity, both emanational & personal, moreso per an ordinal logical (but not temporal) reference, iow, aetiologically.
While the One God of the DN might best be thought of in terms of absolute identity between the Trinity & DN, moreso per a cardinal scale referring to their shared greatness of perfection, iow, ontologically.
When the S assumes human nature, that refers economically. Terms of rank or status refer axiologically.
So, re subordinationism, the creed eschews any ontological & axiological subordination, while aetiological & economic don’t present dogmatic problems.