March 25, 2015

"Matter, God, and Nonsense: Berkeley's Polemic Against the Freethinkers in the Three Dialogues"

I have posted a new draft to my writings page, "Matter, God, and Nonsense: Berkeley's Polemic Against the Freethinkers in the Three Dialogues". The final version of the paper is expected to appear in Berkeley's Three Dialogues: New Essays, ed. Stefan Storrie (Oxford University Press). In the meantime, comments are welcome.

Posted by Kenny at March 25, 2015 10:17 AM
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I very much enjoyed this! I have a question which doesn't really bear on the paper, so much on the univocal vs. analogical issue. We are like God, but we are corrupted where he is not. How does that fact interact with the blockquoted text on p14?

One could pit two passages in scripture in tension: that surrounding Ps 50:21 ("you thought that I was one like yourself") and Is 55:6–9. We have here the possibility of human thoughts and ways becoming better-aligned with God's thoughts and ways. Does Berkeley's argument suffer in any way due to the possibility of [severe and comprehensive] misalignment?

I've actually been wondering for a while what it means for Berkeleyan 'spirit' to be fallen. One option would be something like Emil Brunner's Der Mensch im Widerspruch (ET: Man in Revolt, which misses out on the contradiction aspect), in which he references Augustine's "Incurvatus in se" which one could say arises from a broken relationship with God whereby man is no longer able to handle further calling [to responsibility]. We have from Jesus in Mt 5:8 and the author of Hebrews 12:14 that purity and holiness are required to "see God". Does this mean a critical breakdown of "similitude"?

I wonder if any of the univocal/​analogical/​equivocal matter turns on the breakdown in correspondence between human nature and divine nature that comes from sin.

Posted by: Luke Breuer at April 3, 2015 5:32 PM

Hi Luke,

No, I don't think this causes a problem for Berkeley's understanding of the univocity thesis. All the univocity thesis requires is that there be some real 'similitude' between us and God in virtue of which the same predicates are applied. The similitude is in any case going to be strained.

It's true that a lot of philosophers and theologians (starting mainly from Augustine) have understood fallenness in terms of a disordered relation between mind/soul and body. Berkeley himself makes some comments along those lines, though he is going to have to understand them in a very different way due to his very different view of body. But surely that's not all that's involved in fallenness.

Posted by: Kenny Pearce at April 4, 2015 8:10 AM

Hi Kenny,

In reading Roger Olson's The Dialectic of “Nature and Grace” in Christian Theology today, I started wondering whether the discussion of univocity turns on which obtains:

(1) "... Catholic theology assumes nature to be damaged by the fall but not entirely corrupted—deprived but not depraved."

(2) "... Protestant theology assumes nature to be so corrupted by the fall as to be depraved and without even a point of contact for grace."

Could this possibly determine whether univocity is a good model? The matters seem related; 'determine' might be too strong a term, though. Note that not all Protestants go as far as (2). It could be that there is something deeply problematic with (2). I'm most of the way through Louis Dupré's Passage to Modernity; he talks quite a lot about nature and grace. John Milbank's The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate Concerning the Supernatural has recently come across my radar, after having started his Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason.

Posted by: Luke Breuer at April 13, 2015 12:07 PM

Luke, could you say more about the connection your seeing? I'm not sure I'm understanding.

It wouldn't be surprising if there was some kind of connection here. Catholic theology has generally emphasized analogy, whereas in (conservative/traditional) Protestant theology the doctrine has generally been less emphasized, less developed, and held in less extreme forms (or occasionally rejected entirely).

Posted by: Kenny Pearce at April 13, 2015 12:19 PM

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