Recently, two individuals named Renaissance Man (henceforth, ‘RM’) and Hound of Heaven (henceforth, ‘HoH’) responded to some of my work. You can check out their video here.
I’ll begin by expressing my utmost gratitude to RM and HoH for their engagement with my public work–I hope our mutual engagement will serve all in the pursuit of truth! 🙂
I would also love to chat with RM and HoH at some point soon! I was in the live chat of their video and was having fun chatting with them.
 I only say ‘public’ work because most of the work I’ve done on classical theism (and arguments for and against it) is in papers currently under review at various journals.
One final note before digging in: my responses will be rather brief. This is not because I don’t value HoH’s and RM’s points; on the contrary, I *deeply* value their points and, more importantly, *they themselves*. The reason is because I’ve got a lot–and I mean a loooooooottttttt–on my plate right now.
Without further ado, let’s dig in!
Essence and existence
HoH raises some worries for existential inertia based on the existence-essence distinction. In particular, HoH levels (something like) the following argument. Something’s essence depends on its act of existence (for the act of existence, according to HoH, is that without which the entity in question–and, hence, its essence–would be nothing). Thus, the entity’s act of existence cannot depend on its essence (on pain of vicious circularity). Hence, there must be something outside of the essence-existence composite which accounts for or explains its existence. And this, moreover, is true at any moment at which the entity in question exists. Thus, concurrent conservation from without is required for any essence-existence composite.
 This is a rough approximation of the argument, of course, but I think it adequately summarizes HoH’s reasoning. To hear HoH’s presentation of the line of reasoning, you can check out the video itself.
There are many things that could be said in response. I’ll give some brief responses in bullet points.
- First, the argument seems to rest on a specifically *Thomistic* conception of essence and existence (e.g. involving something’s essence depending on its act of existence, where its existence is (in some sense) a proper part of the whole composite object, etc.), which is not established merely from establishing a distinction between essence and existence. I would agree that the fact that S exists is distinct from the very nature of S. But it is a separate question as to how we characterize or spell out the ‘fact that S exists’ and ‘the nature of S’. And merely establishing a distinction will not give us any further account of what these consist in. Since the argument in question rests on a Thomistic account of these, and since the arguments HoH offered only show (by my lights) that there is merely a distinction between these, and since merely showing a distinction is insufficient to establish a Thomistic account of such distinct things, it follows that the argument–at least by my lights–doesn’t succeed. (This is not to say that the argument cannot succeed, or that there is no justification for a Thomistic understanding of existence and essence.) I develop this line of response further in my video here.
- Second, I discuss how one could plausibly think that existence is inertial while granting a distinction between essence and existence in this post. See Section 7.
- Third, the argument HoH presents seems to assume that the only way one could provide an outside explanation of S’s existence at t is by means of concurrent causal sustenance/conservation of S at t. But there are many, many different ways to provide an outside explanation of S’s existence at t that don’t adduce concurrent causal sustenance/conservation. I discuss five-six ways in a paper of mine, but I cannot share the paper (yet).
- Examples (I know, this is too brief, and I won’t develop them further. But I include them to give y’all a glimpse): transtemporal causal or explanatory relations; an inertial tendency (cf. Beaudoin 2007, Benocci 2018); existence as a state of stasis or unchangingness + a PSR according to which persistence of states of stasis is explained by the very nature/character of states of stasis; the necessary existence of a foundational, temporal concrete object that either sustains, or grounds, or realizes, or constitutes non-foundational temporal concrete objects; the primitive necessary truth of the inertial thesis; and so on.]
So, from what I recall, I have only argued that the first way (or, more accurately, McNabb and DeVito’s + Oderberg’s + Oppy’s + Davies’ + my re-formulations of the first way; see this video) faces the quantifier shift worry. I have not argued that the De Ente argument does. Thus, appealing to the real distinction between essence and existence as a response to my quantifier shift worry is misguided.
It’s also worth noting something that I write in a paper I have under review on Aquinas’s first way:
“Another dialectical avenue some take at this juncture is the appeal to the real distinction in created, finite beings between essence and existence (esse or the act of existence). In particular, some might propose, at this juncture, that anything that is an admixture of act and potency is an essence-existence composite, and any essence-existence composite derives its being from the causal activity of something in which essence and existence are identical. But this response makes Aquinas’s First Way wholly parasitic on Aquinas’s De Ente argument for God’s existence from essence-existence composition. Thus, to pursue this dialectical avenue is to grant that the First Way fails as an independent demonstration of God’s existence. And showing this is my sole purpose in this article.”
Also, I found one of HoH’s arguments for uniqueness to plausibly entail (at least by my lights) the falsity of trinitarianism. Quoting HoH:
“Essence is identical to existence in God. So, if you’re gonna have multiple gods, they’re all going to be identical to their essences. But because they’re all identical with their essences, by the transitivity of identity, they’re going to be identical to each other.”
But apply this reasoning to multiple divine persons. If a divine person is to be truly divine, then (since anything divine is such that its essence and existence are numerically identical) it follows that each of the divine persons is numerically identical to the divine essence. But because they’re all numerically identical with the divine essence, by the transitivity of identity, they’re going to be identical with each other.
Again, I’m not currently proffering an argument against trinitarianism as such; rather, I am simply saying that *if* one accepts the line of reasoning proffered by HoH, it seems one must *also* accept the falsity of Trinitarianism.
 As an aside, I also don’t think this ‘identical-with-essence-of-divinity argument’ for the uniqueness of a simple God succeeds in its own right, wholly apart from trinitarianism. See section 5 of this post.
A quick note on participation
So, RM mounts something like an argument from participation against EI. Because it bears such a high degree of resemblance to the one I addressed in this video, I shall defer my response to said video.
 I should add, though, that (by my lights) the argument from participation that RM proffers would only get us–granting realism with respect to the property of existence–to the abstract universal property of existence (or perhaps the instantiation relation). We can accept a participation metaphysics, in other words, while denying that the thing-in-which-things-participate-for-their-existence is a concrete object with causal powers that loves us and created the universe for a purpose. Rather, it could very well just be–following contemporary versions of platonism–the abstract property of existence (or, again, the instantiation or exemplification relation, say).
QAnon and Pizzagate
Along with RM and HoH, I agree that QAnon and Pizzagate are ludicrous conspiracy theories!  By the way, I wanted to end my post by saying that it was great fun hearing them laugh and joke around with one another at the end. 🙂