Fr. Aiden Kimel and Dale Tuggy have both been going back and forth on the subject of the Trinity for a while now. I was just a little bit tired of standing on the sidelines so long. It seems odd to me that the guy with the relevant degree in philosophy would be so deprived of resources. Fr. Kimel has absolutely no training in philosophy whatsoever and the only training I can see just comes from what he’s read from other sources that do have plenty of relevant training. I was wondering at what point one was going to throw out Aristotle in reference to logic. Neither has done this. Fr. Kimel, understandable since he hasn’t had education. Dale though, should know quite better at this point.
I was a little bit appalled at Dale’s attacks on Fr. Kimel. Fr. Kimel never stated he despised analytic philosophy. Fr. Kimel would more than likely agree with my points that mere logic alone can get us only so far. Even one of the most analytic thinkers in the history of philosophy would have acknowledged that. Hence, it is odd that Tuggy has failed to mention him.
Tuggy’s main point is that analytic philosophers do in fact use logic in their philosophies claiming, “Do they use logic? Do they go on at length? Do they make distinctions, and aim to be precise? Yes.” I am going to counter this claim of his. It seems that Tuggy’s faithful followers have now become scoffers at Fr. Kimel and this is unfortunate because ironically, Fr. Kimel has some of the best philosophers in the business at his disposal which would kind of serve to silence the scoffers a hell of a lot.
Why don’t analytic philosophers use logic? Tuggy seems to miss the point of logic entirely seeing as “language and logic are only tools for conveying to others what we think and believe” (Guthrie, 139). Tuggy isn’t using “logic” if his only purpose is to show Fr. Kimel that analytic theologians and philosophers are somehow more “logical” than anti-analytic thinkers. I was introduced to some of Aristotle’s logical reasoning last semester and I had thought, “What an idiot!” until I had read that the “theory is not of merely logical interest as it gives rise to various epistemological consequences…what can be scientifically demonstrable, what cannot, and why” (Popkin, 62).
That was also about the time I started gaining a bit more of an appreciation for Aristotle as well. Aristotle had actually helped me to understand metaphysics much better. For instance, “Aristotle considers the Categories rather as the classification of genera, species and individuals from summa genera down to individual entities” (Copleston, 279). What “we shall find, for example, that we have concepts of organic bodies, of animals (a subordinate genus), of sheep (a species of animal); but organic bodies, animals, sheep, are all included in the category of substance” (279). Thus, “they…form the bridge between Logic and Metaphysics” (279).
Aristotle helps us to understand that things are apart of a sort of category. Anything is really apart of a certain category. “What is predicated of a subject is the species or genus to which it belongs, as ‘man’ is predicated of John Smith” (Guthrie, 142). This is not to say that the Aristotelian school of logic does not have it’s weaknesses. In fact, it does have weaknesses. For instance, C. Lejewski is quoted saying that “Until the emergence of symbolic logic (that is, for more than two thousand years) Aristotle’s authority on matters of logic remained unchallenged” (qtd. in 97). Another opponent of Aristotelian logic argues that “the theory that Aristotle’s syllogistic logic depends and is founded on the principles of his so-called deep-seated metaphysics…has blocked, and does still block, the path to a true understanding of the nature of logic” (Patzig qtd. in 156).
Even if these are fair criticisms of Aristotelian logic, the value that Aristotle has in the Trinity debate brings us full-circle around to apophatic theology which Fr. Kimel stresses in his article. What we ultimately end up with from Aristotle though, despite his usages of logic, is quite a different God from that which Fr. Kimel would speak of. Ibn Sina follows a similar line of rhetoric as Aristotle’s. It is said of Ibn Sina “that he had read the Metaphysics of Aristotle forty times without understanding it” (Copleston, 287). Nevertheless, Ibn Sina marks “necessity [as] the chief mark of the Supreme Being” (Fakhry, 157) and because he also argues that it has “no distinct essence, the Necessary Being has also no genus and no differentia” (157). Hmmm…I slightly remember Fr. Kimel making a very similar conclusion a while back when he wrote his blog series on creation ex nihilo and he mistakenly started me calling God a nut-case headed to asylum at that point.
These are all very interesting points. The problem is that Tuggy hasn’t addressed any metaphysical points as of late in his argument or at any point as of yet. I would throw down the categories of Aristotle as highly value for both Fr. Kimel and Tuggy at this point because it will help both of them articulate to the other what they are trying to venture when they describe God. Thus far, I would state that for a guy with no education in the field of philosophy whatsoever, Fr. Kimel seems to be doing an actual good job keeping up with the guy who actually does have relevant degrees in the field. Maybe if Fr. Kimel decided to attend two semesters of seminary education in philosophy, he’d finally have Tuggy wrapped up in this debate.
Tuggy it seems prefers to throw ad hominems at anti-analytic philosophers and asserts that “We are trying to love God with our minds. We worship God by trying to think carfully about him.” Thus far, I’m not really seeing this. I’m seeing “God is spirit” becoming reduced to “God is carnal flesh” by Tuggy. All honestly, that’s not bad and all, but one wonders whether or not Tuggy accepts the position of two possible eternities (an eternal universe and an eternal God that created the eternal universe). God as a spirit and supreme character would ultimately end up as Ibn Sina described. Hence, the Trinity is certainly not in opposition of logic but simply outside of logical analysis. One must embrace mysticism and a fond view of the supernatural to be able to first accept it. One must also embrace the idea that the supernatural, being outside of nature, can only be guessed at by our limited minds. I hope Tuggy eventually sees this.
On a side note, I think some constructive criticisms toward Fr. Kimel are definitely necessary otherwise I fear this dialogue between Tuggy and Fr. Kimel is going to go no where in the blogosphere. I think Fr. Kimel should bring up the theology of theosis as another pointer at what Aristotle, Ibn Sina, and Tuggy, all would ultimately end up being missing out on due to their ideas. (I think that Tuggy misses the point when it comes to concepts dealing with God’s love in the Bible and would also wonder whether he believes God hates any one.)
Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Volume 1: Greece and Rome: From the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus. 1946. New York: Image, Doubleday, 1993. Print.
Fakhry, Majid. A History of Islamic Philosophy. 3rd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Print.
Guthrie, W.K.C. A History of Greek Philosophy: Volume VI: Aristotle: An Encounter. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Print.
Popkin, Richard H., ed. The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Print.
P.S. Aristotle asserts boldly that “No insect has six legs. All spiders have eight legs. No spider is an insect. … All insects have six legs. No spider has six legs. Spiders are not insects.” (Guthrie, 167-168). But our friend Lucky would disagree with this assertion.
P.P.S. For those uber-analytic philosophers among us that I lost trying to get to my first point, I found this useful video on YouTube which pretty much argues exactly what I’m also trying to argue via the inescapable reality that God as a being beyond being is beyond our mental capacity.