Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brian Davies

Over at, a post on a new book by Brian Davies: Is God a Moral Agent?
One argument given by Davies that God is not a moral agent is that moral agents are under obligation to a moral law; he attributes this understanding to Aquinas. Is this a proper representation of Aquinas's definition of a moral agent? Could Davies's argument be restated, with Kantian terms thus: is God not a moral agent because he is autonomous while angels and humans are heteronomous, and only heteronomous beings are moral agents? Is this a case of equivocation causing misunderstandings? (It wouldn't be the first time with analytic philosophers.)

How does St. Thomas (or a traditional Thomist) define moral agency? We would look at the different sorts of agency present in creatures, starting with the distinction between voluntary and involuntary/natural. The question is whether by moral agency Aquinas adds anything to his notion of "perfect voluntary" agency. What texts does Davies cite to develop a definition of moral agency?

It is clear that human beings and angels are not God. Is good used analogically of God and creatures? Or equivocally? But if God is not a moral agent, can we say that He is morally good at all? It would seem from the short blurb given at that Davies does take his reasoning in this direction in order to establish a different Christian theodicy. It seems erroneous to me. If God cannot be said to be good, or is not essentially good, then what reason would He have to save us, rather than desiring our destruction or misery? Why should we not imitate His example, rather than submitting to a moral law?

I get the impression that Davies has missed the order of learning and is relying too much on premises taken from his reading of the text (foundationalism?), and then formulating arguments without being confirmed that his understanding of reality is correct.


Benyachov said...

Your error is obvious my friend.

Saying God is not a moral agent or morally good is not the same as saying God isn't good at all.

I'm having a good lunch today. Does my lunch cease to be "good" because it didn't stop the holocaust?

Plato's FORM OF THE GOOD is truly good but does it become not good because like my lunch it too didn't stop the holocaust?

God is metaphysically & ontologically good by nature. But God is not morally good & given His classic definition it's incoherent to call him thus.

Goodness is what God is by nature but Goodness is not an attribute of God since that would violate the divine simplicity.

For example God is Absolute Perfection & the metaphysical basis of the relative perfection in things. But that does not mean God has their particular relative perfections.

God is the perfection in perfect muscle tone. But it doesn't logically follow God Himself has perfect Muscle tone since that would mean God had muscles. But if God had muscles he would be composite not simple therefore imperfect.

Now how do I know this God loves me?

Easy, God caused me to exist. Existence(i.e. being Actual) is interchangeable with goodness according to Aquinas. The Love of God is God willing Goodness for something. God willed me & thus causes me to exist here and now thus God loves me.

It's not hard when you lean the Theology and the philosophy behind it all.

Finally since God is not a moral agent the problem of evil as it is currently known dissolves.

papabear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
papabear said...

Goodness is not an attribute of God,but that does not preclude God's goodness from including moral perfection. So yes, "good" is used equivocally but that does not mean that there is no connection between how it is used (i.e. analogously) or how we apply it in our understanding of God.