Divine experience of beatitude the summum bonum—Part 1

kaleidoscope
Just thinking out loud. Chime in if you want. God, all theists would agree, is the summum bonum—the greatest good, the highest value. I’m going to assume that here. What I’d like to suggest in addition to this (though it is nothing new) is that this highest value is God’s experience, more precisely his experience of “beatitude” or “unsurpassable aesthetic satisfaction” (to employ Greg’s expression from Trinity & Process). You might be thinking that I’ve said this all before and wonder what’s new here? Just this: God’s experience of his own beatitude is that about God which constitutes God as the summum bonum and that from which all created experiences derive their value. This is something we think one ought to say about God and something which seems impossible for a passibilist to say.

What would follow if God’s beatitude (God’s self-constituting experience of ‘beatitude’, ‘bliss’ or ‘aesthetic satisfaction’) were to suffer diminishment? Would not God’s value as the summum bonum be diminished? But God’s value, theists have traditionally believed, is infinite. So just what is it about God that makes God infinitely valuable? Just the mere fact that he exists (necessarily)? That’s hard to see. Perhaps the fact that God loves us is what makes God so valuable. Also unlikely, since that writes contingent created beings into the self-constituting value of necessary existence per se. While it’s true that God loves us, and that we conclude many things about God as the highest good and supreme value from our experience of his love, it seems more true to say that God gives value to us rather than derives value from us.

I suggest (as others have) that it is the experience of being God which is God’s infinite value. And while many of the traditional attributes that get associated with this are important, they do not in themselves constitute God’s value per se. That value, rather, is the sheer beatitude of God’s experience, his own necessary actuality as triune, loving experienced beatitude. One might express this by saying that the greatest value in the universe is the greatest beatitude. And an infinite value would be an infinite(ly intense) experience of aesthetic satisfaction (or experience of loving beatitude), just as Greg Boyd argued in Trinity & Process.

All this is argued elsewhere by thinkers more capable than I, though we’ve discussed much of this here. What I’m curious about is bringing this into conversation with passibilist claims that construe divine suffering as God suffering the diminishment of experienced beatitude. If God is the summum bonum — the highest good and supreme value — and if this is understood in terms of the supreme experience of value as loving, personal existence, then all created values are relative to (not determinative of) the value of God’s experienced beatitude. The question for passibilists then becomes: If God’s experience of beatitude suffers diminishment, does it not follow that in some sense God’s value suffers diminishment? And if so, what happens to the value of all created experience which is derived from the value of God? Would not all values suffer diminishment?

The catch here is understanding the ‘absolute value’ or the summum bonum (from which all things derive their value) first as an ‘experience’ of value and thus as God’s experience of beatitude; i.e., God’s value as God’s experience of beatitude. I’m inclined to agree (with Orthodoxy) that there are no ‘parts’ to God from which God is assembled or constructed and (with Boyd in Trinity & Process) that there is nothing to, or more fundamentally constitutive of, God than his own triune experience of Godself. If this be the case, then this divine experience of beauty just is the infinite value of God and in turn is that from which all created experiences consistently derive their value (as good or evil). They are more or less valuable, more or less privated, to the degree to which they approximate that experience of infinite and absolute beatitude which is God’s existence. If I were pressed for a definition of apatheia as I understand and employ it, I’d say it is just the infinite value of the beatitude of God’s triune experience.

My struggle extends to further questions: How can the summum bonum (God’s experience of beatitude) as the absolute value of all created values rise and fall like a barometer (rise and fall with the fluctuating success and failure of created experiences to approximate the divine beatitude)? Against what metaphysical reality would it be measured? What experience could then measure God’s experience in aesthetic terms? By asserting that God’s beatitude (God’s actual experience of aesthethic satisfaction) rises and falls as the world’s fortunes rise and fall, do passibilists not in effect deny the absolute value of God’s experience? Or are they not committed to ground such value in something other than God’s own experience? What would that something be?

Lastly, I also suggest that God’s goodness toward us (the predictably loving character of his actions) is best understood as a function of his self-constituting triune experience of beatitude. God is good because God’s experience is beautiful, beatific. God is as good as he is to us because he is as beautiful as he is to himself. God’s ad intra beatitude (his experience of his own triune beauty) grounds the predictably loving and gracious nature of his acts ad extra. Diminish the ad intra experience of beatitude and what do you get? What do we do as passibilists if we agree that God’s essential self-constituting ‘experience’ (the act by which God is the self-existent triune God he is) is the summum bonum and that this summum bonum is infinite beauty and beatitude?

(Picture from here.)

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29 comments on “Divine experience of beatitude the summum bonum—Part 1

  1. Jeff says:

    I haven’t finished the whole article since I’m confused at the very start. It seems to me that we’re not clear what relevance “value” has to theology until we specify to whom something is “valuable.” God’s experience can be conceived of as utterly valuable to Himself and yet not impressively valuable to me at all. Indeed, this would be consistent with the view that we are relatively or virtually meaningless to God in the sense that God can’t experience anything new or “worth creating” by creating. If people are having bad experiences now while God isn’t, what implies that will eventually cease if God’s creating doesn’t affect His experience at all. To say God’s experience PER SE causes our experience to be blissful is contradicted by current human experience. More premises are required, it seems, to imply that something different from the current state of affairs will occur in the future with respect to the experiences of creatures. And supposedly those premises will involve a role of free-will in some sense.

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    • Jeff says:

      “Also unlikely, since that writes contingent created beings into the self-constituting value of necessary existence.”

      But how do we know that there is precisely one, infinite, non-varying aspect of God’s experience which has value to God? Positing that seems to prevent us from explaining our own existence since it rules out God’s sentience from having anything to do with His motivation to create. And it’s hard to imagine what other than divine sentience renders God’s motivation analogical to human motivation in any sense. To deny diversity of sentient experience to God seems to create as much of a show-stopper to the conception of divine motivation as the absence of sentience in God.

      I’m thinking Tom had said something like “to think is to feel.” But if divine sentience/feeling is void of diversity of quality or intensity, what difference does it make what God thinks unless divine value is grounded in something other than sentience? But what would that be? Is there a way to make sense of human value utterly independent of human sentience that I’m overlooking?

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      • tgbelt says:

        Have you read Trinity & Process yet?

        T

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      • Jeff says:

        Not all of it, Tom. And I’m half way in that chapter by Turner you recommended. Of course that chapter seems to have to do with what it means or doesn’t mean for God “to exist.” All I’m getting at is that I’ve never heard any philosopher talk about motivation (and by implication motivated action) except in the sense of an ability to experience DIVERSE sentient experiences that can be valued for their different degree of satisfaction, novelty, etc. I never hear people say, “because 2+2=4, I will …,” independent of any sentient experience that can be instantiated by instantiating a new state of affairs.

        That doesn’t mean that God isn’t different in that respect. But it does seem to mean that we need to define “motivation” for God differently than we do for humans if God can’t instantiate even one additional sentient experience over and above some putative necessary experience. And I can’t even imagine how we would define “divine motivation” via that approach. How would you define it such that it doesn’t presuppose a capacity of the motivated one to instantiate a different sentient experience in itself.

        I definitely think Greg doesn’t know how to make sense of that either, whatever he might have written in words in T&P. And Hartshorne didn’t see to posit that of God either, unless I’ve misread what I’ve read of him.

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      • tgbelt says:

        If you’ve read and follow Greg’s arguments in T&P and just disagree, cool. Let’s just leave it there. Thanks.

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      • tgbelt says:

        Greg reviews Hartshorne’s argument for aesthetic value as his 6th a priori on pp. 81-88 (discusses the nature and primacy of aesthetic value, the identity of ‘fact’ and ‘value’, experienced facts as experienced value or valuation, aesthetic value and the concrete, etc.). Then Greg takes up objections to CH’s view with some critiques and modifications of his own on pp. 168-176. Much more appears elsewhere too in applying this to his understanding of God. If you can’t wrap your head around aesthetic value as an a prior of experience, or of an unsurpassably intense experience of value (in terms of God) being possibly motivated to do anything, we can just leave our differences outstanding. I don’t have anything to add to Hartshorne or Greg in terms of their basic reasoning.

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      • tgbelt says:

        Some relevant portions (in no special order) from those pages of Greg’s Trinity & Process:

        On Hartshorne’s view there is no meaningful ultimate distinction between a fact and value.

        ——————

        Hartshorne argues that fact and value are two facets of every experience, not two different experiences. But there are, obviously, different kinds of valuation. One can value the truth over falsity, the right over wrong, or the beautiful over the ugly or mundane. What, we must then ask, is the mode of valuation which Hartshorne believes to be an a priori aspect of experience, or creative synthesis, as such? Hartshorne answers this when he writes: “The basic value is the intrinsic value of experiencing, as a unity of feeling inclusive of whatever volition and thought the experience contains, and exhibiting harmony or beauty. If we know what experience is, at its best or most beautiful, then and only then can we know how it is right to act; for the value of action is in what it contributes to experiencing. Thinking, [as] Peirce held, is one form of acting, and hence logic as a normative science is a branch of ethics. Both presuppose aesthetics….”

        In Hartshorne’s estimation, we see, it is the experience of beauty, and hence aesthetic valuation, which is fundamental to both acting and thinking….no experience, including an experience of ethical or logical value, can be consistently conceived completely void of aesthetic value.

        ——————-

        A second argument used by Hartshorne to prove the metaphysical priority of aesthetic valuations over ethical or cognitive valuations is that it is only in aesthetic experiences that we are necessarily attentive to the concrete as such. Both ethics and cognition are necessarily abstract….

        [Hartshorne] writes “…valuation enters into every possible experience, and hence value enters into every possible object of experience and thought. As [a] theory of concreteness, metaphysics can abstract neither from value nor from experience.”

        Since metaphysics is, as we have seen, concerned with the a priori “concreteness as such,” modes of valuation which necessarily abstract from this concreteness cannot be consider as a priori ingredients to this concreteness. Hence, Hartshorne contends that only aesthetic value may be seen as fundamental to all experience.

        We see, then, that to experience is to experience some minimal aesthetic value. “Absolute aesthetic failure simply means no experience at all.”

        …it is this production of aesthetic satisfaction which is the ultimate telos of creativity. “[T]he teleology of the Universe is directed towards the production of Beauty.”

        ————————-

        But is it true that aesthetic intensity is necessarily contingent upon a diverse multiplicity? It is perhaps true as a general rule that a more comprehensive and complex multiplicity in unity evokes a more intense aesthetic feeling than does a simple and nearly self-identical multiplicity. But does it follow from this that this is the principal and necessary ingredient in any aesthetic experience? Is not something missing here? Is it necessarily the scope and diversity of one work of art, or of one viewed landscape, which alone makes it more beautiful than another? Can the quality of the aesthetic experience by exhaustively explained by this quantitative analysis? Might not the Romanticists, the Transcendentalists, and the Neo-Platonists throughout the ages have been on to something in their claim that the intensity of beauty is associated with the perception of truth: a truth about the ultimate nature of reality, of the world, and of ourselves; a truth which cannot be adequately grasped by reason or ordinary sense perception; a truth which cannot be captured by any quantitative analysis?

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    • Jeff says:

      When I say above, “If people are having bad experiences now while God isn’t, what implies that will eventually cease if God’s creating doesn’t affect His experience at all,” and etc, I’m meaning sentient experience. What else makes experience “bad” or “good” than sentience?

      Clearly God’s purely cognitive awareness can be affected by creation. But how does God’s mere mental content, independent of sentience, account for divine motivation to create? That’s the question I can’t think of an answer to. And that means I can’t account for an intentional creation of the “world” I infer, of which I also infer myself to be a part. And to me, that’s just what atheism/agnosticism means — that the world we infer to exist was either NOT intentionally created or not DISCERNIBLY intentionally created.

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  2. Jeff says:

    Hartshorne: Hartshorne argues that fact and value are two facets of every experience, not two different experiences. But there are, obviously, different kinds of valuation. One can value the truth over falsity, the right over wrong, or the beautiful over the ugly or mundane. What, we must then ask, is the mode of valuation which Hartshorne believes to be an a priori aspect of experience, or creative synthesis, as such? Hartshorne answers this when he writes: “The basic value is the intrinsic value of experiencing, as a unity of feeling inclusive of whatever volition and thought the experience contains, and exhibiting harmony or beauty. If we know what experience is, at its best or most beautiful, then and only then can we know how it is right to act; for the value of action is in what it contributes to experiencing.

    J: It is not at all clear from those words that Greg is saying that Hartshorne is denying that God has diversity of sentient experience over time. Rather, it seems that Greg could be saying there that Hartshorne claims “the value of action is in what it CONTRIBUTES to experiencing.” Contribution to sentient experience seems to logically require diversity of sentient experience. In other words, I’m not seeing how I’m disagreeing with Hartshorne on that point at all.

    And I’m not disagreeing with your claim that aesthetic experience is entailed in every moment of God’s experience. But that claim is distinct from the claim that God’s sentient experience is non-diverse over time. I’ve never seen where Hartshorne claims the latter.

    Thanks for the page numbers, btw. The index and table of contents in T&P is not that good (at least the copy I have). It’s frustrating.

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    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff: It is not at all clear from those words that Greg is saying that Hartshorne is denying that God has diversity of sentient experience over time.

      Tom: Right. Hartshorne doesn’t deny that. Hartshorne and Process theists in fact argue it; i.e., that God’s aesthetic value just is the value God derives from synthesizing the all the world’s finite occasions. There is no value of or for God apart from this. God “gets” his value “from” synthesizing the world’s process. God is the one all-inclusive such experience (syntheizer of the world). So for CH/Process, God’s experience of aesthetic value is ever-increasing as the ‘scope’ and ‘diversity’ of the world’s process grows in scope and diversity. Greg’s whole thesis is to disagree with this, but Greg entirely agrees (and Hartshorne is a great resource for its argumentation) on the a priori nature of aesthetic value per se and the necessity of God’s experience as the supreme value. They just disagree over whether God, like us, derives his value from outside himself (as we do). In T&P Greg argues God (whose necessity of existence JUST IS his necessary experience as summum bonum) is best thought of as not deriving his value from outside himself.

      Jeff: Rather, it seems that Greg could be saying there that Hartshorne claims “the value of action is in what it CONTRIBUTES to experiencing.” Contribution to sentient experience seems to logically require diversity of sentient experience. In other words, I’m not seeing how I’m disagreeing with Hartshorne on that point at all.

      Tom: Yeah, I don’t see you disagreeing with Hartshorne on this point either. You seem ‘Process’ on this as far as I can tell. We’re agreeing with Greg against Hartshorne.

      Jeff: And I’m not disagreeing with your claim that aesthetic experience is entailed in every moment of God’s experience. But that claim is distinct from the claim that God’s sentient experience is non-diverse over time. I’ve never seen where Hartshorne claims the latter.

      Tom: He doesn’t claim the latter. But Hartshorne’s view (on the necessity of the derived nature of the scope and diversity of God’s aesthetic value) is the view Greg is disagreeing with.

      Just to be clear, Greg’s not disagreeing that beauty and aesthetic value don’t essentially require unity in diversity (that, among other things, seems essential to ‘beauty’ per se). They do. Beauty is inconceivable apart from unity in diversity, harmony, etc. What Greg is arguing (more in line with the Orthodox) is that those essential aspects of ‘beauty’ (diversity, unity, harmony, etc.) all obtain triunely-relationally for God and are (as a transcendental) constitutive of God’s necessary actuality apart from the world. That’s just what it means to say God is the summum bonum. The increasing scope and diversity of the world’s becoming and beauty are all, Greg argues, expressive and reflective of the already consummate scope and diversity of God’s triune beauty and experience. So nothing definitively new IN THIS SENSE is introduced by the world to God such that God (i.e., God’s experience of aesthetic value) is derived from us. It doesn’t mean God isn’t temporal, know an open future, experience the world in its temporal becoming, etc. It just means that God doesn’t derive the fullness of his identity, meaning or existence (all of which constitute a beauty of absolute value) historically within the horizon of the world’s becoming.

      In short, God doesn’t NEED us in any of these senses–though God does need us in those contingent sense relative to the fulfilling of his creative purposes. But for some people, that’s not enough; if the meaning of their existence without remainder doesn’t determine the meaning of God’s existence without remainder (i.e., if God is transcendently happy in some sense while they are in despair and pain), then their existence has no meaning. God can’t be happy without them.

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      • tgbelt says:

        Think of it as an aesthetic or affective a priori as the objective ground of ethical and moral value. One objection to there being such an objective divine aesthetic value that grounds all other created values has been the irreducible subjectivity of all aesthetics. The objection is that since all aesthetic and moral valuation is irreducibly subjective and private, aesthetic value is strictly in the eye of the beholder. Greg and Hartshorne (and others) argue that aesthetic valuation Has to have an objective foundation (which is God).

        However, where Greg agrees with Whitehead and Hartshorne that God’s experience of aesthetic value is the objective ground from which all other created experiences derive their value, Greg disagrees with Process theists that this divine objective ground (which is just the divine experience itself) (a) derives from the world process as God synthesizes all created experiences as the ‘stuff’ of his own experience of aesthetic value (i.e., God’s value is not simply the sum total of all created values), and that it is (b) ever-increasing as the world’s complexity increases.

        So where Process theists ground the intensity of God’s experience of aesthetic value in the divergent multiplicity of the world’s processes, Greg argues the intensity of God’s experience of value is absolute (both unimprovable and undiminishable) and self-derived (triunely, relationally). For Greg, this unsurpassable intensity of aesthetic value (viz., God’s experience of himself as absolute beauty) just is the absolute objective ground of all value — that is, God is the summum bonum. Otherwise there is no objective beatitude (i.e., no subjective experience of absolute value) which is the objective foundation of all value, no experience of value which is neither relative to other experiences as deriving its value and beauty from them nor simply (as for Hartshorne) the sum total of all finite goods/values such that God’s value increases via his experience of the world’s increasing complexity.

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      • Jeff says:

        Tom: Hartshorne and Process theists in fact argue it; i.e., that God’s aesthetic value just is the value God derives from synthesizing the all the world’s finite occasions.

        J: Right, but because he thinks there is and always has been from eternity past a god-world relationship. I not only disagree with that, but I don’t see how it can explain warranted belief given what you rightly say of that view: “So for CH/Process, God’s experience of aesthetic value is ever-increasing as the ‘scope’ and ‘diversity’ of the world’s process grows in scope and diversity.” IOW, that view is self-refuting since a growth in scope from an eternity past is only intelligible if the “scope” and “diversity” has always been infinite. If it was ever finite, there is no way to account for eternal growth of scope and diversity theretofore that is consistent with any future hope of a better world. But if this is as discernibly good as it gets, we’re pretty much hosed and theism is worthless as an explanation of anything relevant to adjudicating our future decisions. In short, Hartshorne’s process theology is as barren epistemologically as deism and for the same reason–God is not discernibly competent to render the world any better for “world-beings” than it is right now.

        Tom: … Greg entirely agrees (and Hartshorne is a great resource for its argumentation) on the a priori nature of aesthetic value per se and the necessity of God’s experience as the supreme value.

        J: Again, value to who? And how does it become a value to someone other than God? Obviously God’s sentient experience is THE value to God, but that per se doesn’t help me adjudicate one future decision. How does it BECOME a value to anyone else? And does free-will have anything to do with that? If so, how? This is what I don’t see entailed in or derivable from your comments.

        Tom: In T&P Greg argues God (whose necessity of existence JUST IS his necessary experience as summum bonum) is best thought of as not deriving his value from outside himself.

        J: I’m on board with that. But you’re saying more than that, seemingly. You’re saying, seemingly, that God’s sentient experience, though caused by diversity or complexity of mental content, never varies in kind or degree through time. And that’s where the conceivability of “motive to action” problem comes in.

        Jeff: Rather, it seems that Greg could be saying there that Hartshorne claims “the value of action is in what it CONTRIBUTES to experiencing.” Contribution to sentient experience seems to logically require diversity of sentient experience. In other words, I’m not seeing how I’m disagreeing with Hartshorne on that point at all.

        Tom: Yeah, I don’t see you disagreeing with Hartshorne on this point either. You’re perfectly Process on this as far as I can tell. We’re agreeing with Greg against Hartshorne.

        J:Hartshorne is talking analogically of God. You seem to be denying the analogy and still leaving us with nothing by which to distinguish motivated action from uncaused or deterministic-unmotivated action. What steps into ground the distinction once diversity of kind/degree of sentient experience isn’t used to account for it? We need a new definition of motivated action to distinguish divine motivated action from everything else we call unmotivated action.

        Alternatively, if you’re saying all action is motivated action in some singular meaning of that word, then aren’t you saying that human motivation has nothing to do with the human capacity to freely instantiate diverse kinds and/or degrees of satisfactory/dissatisfactory experience in themselves (contra non-free entitites) OR that human freedom is identical to the mode of all non-human action? If the former, how does free-will play into theosis? If the latter, are fundamental particles involved in theosis, or do fundamental particles even exist, per your view?

        Tom: What Greg is arguing (more in line with the Orthodox) is that those essential aspects of ‘beauty’ (diversity, unity, harmony, etc.) all obtain triunely-relationally for God and are (as a transcendental) constitutive of God’s necessary actuality apart from the world. That’s just what it means to say God is the summum bonum.

        J: But what follows from that that can be used to adjudicate future decisions? That’s what I’m missing. It seems to cut us off from being able to distinguish between better and worse choices. And then from conceiving of theosis as having any discernible dependency on free-will.

        Tom: The increasing scope and diversity of the world’s becoming and beauty are all, Greg argues, expressive and reflective of the already consummate scope and diversity of God’s triune beauty and experience.

        J: Which by itself seems to mean that all that’s happening just IS fine with God. Which, again, seems to cut us off from conceiving of theosis as having any discernible dependency on how we freely choose so long as there’s lots of diversity of choices, UNLESS you’re saying freedom’s only value is to instantiate novelty as it can per deism. But you would say that novelty can’t contribute to God’s sentient experience, shutting me off from that too, wouldn’t you?

        Tom: So nothing definitively new IN THIS SENSE is introduced by the world to God such that God (i.e., God’s experience of aesthetic value) is derived from us. It doesn’t mean God isn’t temporal, know an open future, experience the world in its temporal becoming, etc. It just means that God doesn’t derive the fullness of his identity, meaning or existence historically via the world’s becoming. God dudn’t NEED us in any of these senses

        J: Right, God didn’t need to create at all.

        Tom: –though God does need us in those contingent sense relative to the fulfilling of his creative purposes.

        J: Right, but you require us to define purpose independently of the capacity to instantiate an “end” sentient experience that’s any different in kind and/or degree than the single sentient experience He’s had from eternity past. So like “motive,” you’ve rendered “purpose” undefined as you’re using it. It can’t mean what people mean by it when speaking of human purposes given your axioms.

        Tom: But for some people, that’s not enough; if the meaning of their existence without remainder doesn’t determine the meaning of God’s existence without remainder (i.e., if God is transcendently happy in some sense while they are in despair and pain), then their existence has no meaning. God can’t be happy without them.

        J: You deny that God the Father is a being who is the one true God in the SENSE that He alone is the one OUT of whom are all things. Given that denial, I don’t see how you could make sense of teleology consistent with our desire to explain creation as unnecessary. But I’ve yet to see what you mean by divine “motive” and “purpose” on the other hand, after denying the capacity of God to instantiate diverse sentient experience over time. “Motive” and “purpose,” when applied to humans is defined just as Hartshorne uses those terms, it seems.

        As I see it, the only way to use Hartshorne’s definitions (which seem to be the conventional ones) and account for creation as unnecessary but caused, consistently with conventionally agreed upon definitions of warranted belief, is to allow for a diversity of necessary natures of the Father and the Son as well as the divine capacity of the Father to freely RISK to instantiate a NEW kind of worthwhile experience in the Son.

        This way, God doesn’t create for us and He can fare better or worse sentiently, depending on the free actions of creatures, while attaining the end of satisfying His Son (hence, the need for God’s VOLUNTARY LOVE of His Beloved to account for creation). Since He can fare better or worse sentiently speaking, He need not be capable of creating to knowingly INCREASE or MAINTAIN His over-all satisfaction, but rather He may only be capable of creating to knowingly bring to pass a sympathetic satisfaction derived from His Son’s satisfaction, whether or not His over-all satisfaction during the time-frame of the teleological project is MAINTAINED.

        Love might be consistent with such risk-taking. And if such risk-taking is free, it’s not inevitable. What is important is that it’s God’s competence to GUARANTEE the worthwhile satisfaction of the Son and volitional creatures that renders God’s love a SUFFICIENT condition of our hope, endurance and warranted belief.

        Now, a teleological project can be temporal with respect to the enjoyment of its ends. If creation is temporal in that way, creation can’t change anything about the essential sentient capacities of God or the Son.

        In short, I’m thinking scriptural onto-theology can be done such that we can see how God’s sentient capacities can inform us as to HOW to better adjudicate future free decisions. I don’t see how your view gets us that far given the full import-destruction of terms like “motive” and “purpose” entailed its denials. To get intelligible implications (that help us adjudicate future decisions), we need new definitions/import for those terms which were stripped of their original, conventional import by newly made denials.

        Look up phrases like “intrinsic motivation” and “extrinsic motivation” to see how dependent those definitions are on the idea of the capacity of one to instantiate sentient states different from one’s current one. Hartshorne was seemingly using conventional meanings of those terms, not peculiarly-process meanings.

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      • tgbelt says:

        We’ll give it another go in a year–or two, or three.

        Tom

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      • tgbelt says:

        I did want to address this…

        Tom: So nothing definitively new IN THIS SENSE is introduced by the world to God such that God (i.e., God’s experience of aesthetic value) is derived from us. It doesn’t mean God isn’t temporal, know an open future, experience the world in its temporal becoming, etc. It just means that God doesn’t derive the fullness of his identity, meaning or existence historically via the world’s becoming. God dudn’t NEED us in any of these senses.

        Jeff: Right, God didn’t need to create at all.

        Tom: But let’s hold ourselves to that “right.” It’s WHY God doesn’t need to create at all that you may not be appreciating (with respect to our view), namely, that ‘why’ defines God’s necessary actuality and so it abides throughout. It qualifies motivation and relation throughout.

        ————-

        Jeff: …but you require us to define purpose independently of the capacity to instantiate an “end” sentient experience that’s any different in kind and/or degree than the single sentient experience He’s had from eternity past.

        Tom: You just got finished agreeing that that about God which constitutes his not needing to create at all is the unimprovable fullness of his aesthetic experience. You agreed we can’t add anything new to God in this sense. Now you don’t seem to want this to continue to be the case about God in his motivation for creating and relating to us.

        Jeff: So like “motive,” you’ve rendered “purpose” undefined as you’re using it. It can’t mean what people mean by it when speaking of human purposes given your axioms.

        Tom: As perhaps you’re rendering “right” undefined as you’re using it. 😀 Look, of course we’re using ‘motive’ to mean something different than the experience of motivation as the vast majority of humans know it since the vast majority of so much of our intending and motivation is self-preserving and self-serving. But it’s not true, as you say, that we’re not telling people how we’re defining our words, or that Greg isn’t clear (we’re just following him on this point) about the sense in which God is “motivated,” or “intends” things, or the sense in which we may and may not “mean” something to God. We have often talked about what we mean by motivation, clarifying the difference between the sense in which we experience it. Greg likens motivation in God’s case to spieltrieb; the Hindu concept of Lila is helpful too, as is the Buddhist concept of equanimity. You may not like these associations. You may disagree with them or find them unhelpful. I don’t know. But it’s not the case that we haven’t defined our terms or that our definitions have no conceivable meaning to people.

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  3. Jeff says:

    J1: … God’s love a SUFFICIENT condition of our hope, endurance and warranted belief.

    J2: I don’t think I’m right, there, Tom. I would have to say endurance is voluntary and therefore God is only a necessary rather than a sufficient condition of human endurance.

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  4. Tom,

    I think what you’ve done here is actually made a great argument for Divine Timelessness and Simplicity. I also think that someone who holds to both of these doctrines (as I tend to do — most of the time anyway) could reply to your points sort of like this.

    One need not hold that God, if he actually does experience conscious suffering, goes through a process of “diminishment” as you put it. That is a temporal notion implying passage and so wouldn’t apply to a Timeless Being. Rather, what I would say is that God’s actual fullness of being changelessly and eternally comprehends all his conscious experiences at once – indeed in some sort of beatific experience, but that experience is *not an experience devoid of suffering.* Where you want to say that God literally does not know via experience the metaphysical *feeling* of suffering in his inner being because that would decrease his beatitude, I want to say that God does in fact know this feeling – he knows it eternally and timelessly. It is comprehended in his infinite Now .But this doesn’t dampen God’s beatitude to because a) God also knows all the ways in which his suffering leads on to glories and goods otherwise impossible (could God metaphysically know “courage” if he had not some real experience of “fear”?); and b) God’s own enjoyment of his beatitude as such does not reduce to a *single, conscious experience* intelligible to us. You seem to equate God’s own experience of himself with something like Bliss or Peace or Ecstasy. I think you are limiting God’s plenitude of experience by doing so. It is my view that every conceivable metaphysical experience that WE can feel must also somehow be “felt” in God’s own being. For where else could such a feeling – such a metaphysical datum – come from? To put it in Scholastic form: all of our conscious experiences have existence and being; and, insofar as they have this, they “get it” from God. For what is in the effect must pre-exist in the cause.

    Now, as I said I also think this post goes a long way towards arguing for Simplicity. In particular your intuition that God must be the summum bonum – i.e. the absolute against which everything relative is measured – does this. This point of yours is just another way of putting Aristotle’s point (that he comes at the end of Metaphysics book 10) of “that which is Primary has no opposite.” For what is First is not divisible.

    And if this is so – if indeed God as you say “has no parts” – then it follows that he cannot have any accidents. But if he cannot have any accidents, he cannot have any accidental relations either, such as being “unnecessarily related to the world.” Therefore I think the whole distinction between God’s “ad intra” and his “ad extra” being is in fact incoherent given various concessions to Divine Simplicity. In fact it seems the only way one could hold such a distinction is by positing a temporal and changing God. But again, if God is changing I don’t see how he himself doesn’t reduce to one more measurable item, one more relative good. This is evidenced by the fact that those who hold to a temporal God call BOTH God’s conscious states/relations (ad intra and ad extra) “good.” But as soon as we can use the same term for multiple things we have posited some changeless value, some absolute, over and against the thing we are measuring. In this case we are measuring God’s conscious experiences (experiencing himself alone and then himself in relation to creation.) Therefore, if God’s changing experiences are BOTH good you are at the same time conceding they are not THE good, the summum bonum. (I’ve wrote a post over at my blog trying to argue this point actually. Check it out if interested: “On the Eternal I AM.”)

    As far as passibilism vs impassibilism. What I want to say is that God does “know” suffering and even experiences it (maximally). But I don’t think this falls to the normal criticisms because I don’t think of God “going from” one conscious experience to the next. He knows all conscious experiences, as it were, from all eternally “from within.” So metaphysically speaking, you could say I am an impassibilist. God’s full experience of existence does not vary or change. But theologically, I am a passibilist insofar as I hold that God does in fact experiences “painful” emotions.

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    • Tom says:

      Thanks Malcolm. Interesting. Certainly something to think about! As I read through your thoughts certain parts seemed familiar, so you must have touched on this before, or maybe I read your post you referenced. I’ll let it similar a while and see what cooks up!

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    • Tom says:

      Quick thoughts:

      (1) It doesn’t make much difference if God is timelessly diminished aesthetically or if he temporally changes and ‘goes through a process of diminishment’. For me, it’s just the diminishment of divine beatitude per se, not the temporal nature of how God comes by such diminishment (necessarily/transcendently as simple/eternal or temporally via his experience of the world).

      (2) I’d be interested in hearing more about what you mean by supposing God eternally comprehends suffering, fear, and all other manner of pathos. I don’t understand what it means to say God’s timeless experience is one of ‘beatitude’ inclusive of actual ‘suffering’. You seem to want the suffering also to be eternally resolved (because God eternally knows the ways in which his suffering leads to good otherwise impossible). But this suggests something of a temporal perspective, and you don’t admit that into God, so I’m unsure how an eternal divine perspective suffers eternally and also is eternally resolved of this suffering because it eternally knows the goods to which that suffering leads. Are you very familiar with Bulgakov? He had thoughts along this line but as many times as I read him I simply can’t come up with a coherent notion of what he’s saying. I’ve talked to people who know his work well (actually, reputed experts) and they can’t say what he really means either. It sure looks to me like the metaphysical equivalent of sweeping everything under the rug.

      (3) You say God’s (self-)experience of beatitude isn’t a “single, conscious experience.” What then? Do you posit a multiplicity of consciousnesses or centers of consciousness in God, one for every contrary pathos felt? You don’t view God consciousness (in the analogical sense we use the word of God) as singular and undivided?

      (4) As you say, I do indeed equate God’s experience of himself with bliss, peace, and the ecstasy of love. I don’t know what else ‘beatitude’ is if not an experience of these things – bliss, peace, harmony, unity and diversity, recognition, personal identity in/through affirmation, the fullness of giving-and-receiving, personal presence, etc., free of their negations or privations. But I hear you saying the plenitude of divine being/beatitude should be thought of as eternally constituted as ‘all possible experience’ (peace and despair, unity and alienation, recognition and rejection, affirmation and refusal, elation and exile, beatitude and suffering, etc. As you say, “every conceivable metaphysical experience that we can feel must also somehow be ‘felt’ in God’s own being; for where else could such a feeling – such a metaphysical datum – come from? To put it in Scholastic form….” But scholasticism didn’t make the move you’re making, and my guess is that’s because they understood evil and its consequences as a ‘privation’ of the good, not an aspect of it. We can to greater or lesser degrees fail to “get it” (i.e., fail to participate in the Good), and that failure of participation is experienced or felt (as fear, despair, personal estrangement, etc.) but only as a privation. So it’s not the case in any straightforward way that since our existence per se is a participation in being (because God sustains us) that “all our conscious experiences [including fear, despair, suffering] have existence and being (i.e., they are in themselves manifestation of Being), and insofar as they have this, they ‘get it’ from God” so that we must think of this suffering and fear as pre-existing in God as the cause or ground of our being. Once we grant creaturely privation of the good, there’s no metaphysical reason to upload that privation into the Good as an eternal aspect of the Divine.

      Bro, thanks for sharing and challenging me on this. Appreciate it. I’m still thinking on it. I’ll have to pick Bulgakov back up (dang) because he attempted to locate pain and suffering in the inner chambers of the eternal trinity. I could never make sense of it.

      Tom

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  5. Lotta typos and clumsy sentences – but that happens after working a 13 hour shift with no lunch break!

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  6. Tom,

    A few quick rejoinders to your points:

    2) Never read or heard of Bulgakov (could you send me some of his stuff?) but he and I seem to be thinking along the same lines. You ask how an eternal/timeless God could experience something which seems to necessarily require passage – such as “resolving suffering.” I don’t know how to answer other than say that somehow all temporal happenings are really contained “at once” in God’s eternal now. Is this notion comprehensible? Not totally. Self-contradictory? I don’t think so, though it does require positing some sort of higher dimension (a Timeless one) in which God exists. Such a thing isn’t necessarily false or impossible, though it is incomprehensible – and would necessarily be for temporal beings. At least that’s how it seems to me.

    3) I don’t think that God’s actual experience is reducible to what WE mean by a single, conscious experience. All our conscious experiences exist in isolation. They exclude one another; and thus we cannot have two conscious experiences precisely simultaneously. (We can of course oscillate between them with great rapidity.) God’s experience must be something LIKE a conscious experience, obviously, since he knows, wills, feels, etc. And that experience must be single. I just don’t think it is a “particular” experience of a single human emotion. It’s something more akin to all emotions rolled into one. But I think this point is mostly just a linguistic difference between us. It seems we both agree that God’s beatitude is a single, all-comprehensive experience. Where we disagree is not on the singularity of that experience but on whether or not it experiences suffering. (Though again, if God is temporal I don’t see how God’s essential experience “stick together” into a single subject since each temporal experience is necessarily different from every other.)

    4) Your point about privation is well taken. But the question to me is quite difficult and still not resolved. For you DO take something like “pain” to be an actual, metaphysically “real” thing, don’t you? When you say that the Bad as such is mere privation of being and therefore nonexistent, you seem to also imply that all conscious experiences which ATTEND the Bad are ALSO nonexistent. But the “solidity” of bad feelings like pain, fear, grief etc are undeniably there. Whatever may be going on metaphysically on the abstract level of pure being, it is absurd to say that these emotional *experiences* qua experiences don’t exist – for their very existence is the experience itself. Thus they share, somehow, in Being itself and need some explanation. It seems your notion would lead to one denying the reality of unpleasant emotional experiences as things which lack being, which is absurd.

    I enjoy our convos man! You make me think just about as hard as anybody!

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    • Tom says:

      Yes. Sergei Bulgakov (d. 1944). Russian Orthodox scholar/priest, co-founder of and prof at St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris.

      Start with The Bride of the Lamb, then The Lamb of God. Both are on Amazon. Not cheap.

      Buckle your seat belt and return your tray to its locked and upright position before reading.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      Re: your (4). Looks like the main issue is the nature of evil/suffering as ‘privation’. Of course the pain/suffering of privated states is actually experienced. But I don’t take this to mean that divine counterparts of pain and suffering are being participated in by suffering persons. All experience is a participation in being, yes, but not everything about experience participates in the Good. Rather, to say that our experience/existence participates in the Good/Being just means that all our experience, no matter how privated, always approximates to some measure the good of which it is a participation, always tends irreducibly toward the Good as such, not that the pain and suffering of evil itself approximate the good in any measure. On the contrary, evil as ‘privation’ is just the measure to which experience fails to comprehend the good it is intended for – thus “privation” and not “participation.” The greater the privation, the less one participates in being, the less ‘being’ there is, the less one ‘is’ at all.

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  7. Bulgakov also does the thing where he poses a question like “this issue takes us directly to the issue of God’s foreknowledge, and if he knows “before” we do things, how can we be free?” And then he falls into 10 paragraphs of indefinite speech; and 5 pages later the question is not answered. He’ll just raise it again in a different form: “now we are lead directly to the issue of prophecy…” etc.

    That’s one thing about the Summa. Whatever else you want to say about it there is no beating around the bush.

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    • Tom says:

      I’m sometimes exasperated reading him. But I can’t not read or think about his work either. Weird.

      Hey, ANYTHING you find in him on foreknowledge and freedom, share those page numbers,etc. I’m collecting that stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tom, don’t have time to locate exact quotes but pages 225-250 should do the trick. Also, I was thinking you should do a post about how God’s “single” experienced beatitude (that we’ve been calling “a” conscious experience, nevertheless is also somehow THREE personal experiences via Father, Son, and Spirit. In other words, maybe an exploration of how the essential Oneness of God’s experience on your view is reconciled with the essential Threeness of the three persons’ mental experiences.

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      • Tom says:

        Yeah, I got all that right here in my back pocket!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Fr Bulgakov is one of the first to do liturgical theology. It doesn’t aim to systematically approach issues and questions; it is much more ‘organic’ in style. It is difficult to understand Bulgakov, even more so taken out of the context of the Divine Liturgy (he celebrated it daily). I find him most helpful in raising questions, pushing the envelope, making me think ‘where’ I otherwise would not have ventured. He’s definitely not intended for quick, neat and easy answers. Even his understanding of dogma is quite fluid!

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