Sub-creative Omnipotence

In a recent post I made the case that, in essence, what the late medieval voluntarism of Ockham, et al, represented was theology abandoning its sub-creative task. Specifically, it ceased to properly contextualize its fantastical, counterfactual claims about the possibilities open to divine power, by not carefully crafting an imaginative, secondary world in which those possibilities could be seen as internally consistent or proportionate. Late medieval voluntarism, to use Tolkien’s expression, is “green sun” theology–less imaginative or creative than simply ugly and lazy. Theology forgot that God is no mere “possibility actualizer,” but a world-maker. Creation is not the mere realization of a bare logical possibility, but to borrow Heidegger’s apt phrase, involves instead the “worlding of a world.”

That Aquinas, for his part, retained a better sense of the sub-creative nature of speculation over divine power may perhaps be seen in this passage from SCG 2.23.3:

Now, there are many entities which do not exist in the realm of created things, but which, if they did so exist, would imply no contradiction; particularly obvious examples are the number, quantities, and distances of the stars and of other bodies, wherein, if the order of things were different, no contradiction would be implied.

Implicit in this passage is an awareness on Thomas’s part that, unless the order of things were made different, any change to just the number, quantities, and distances of the stars might in fact involve a contradiction, and so prove impossible. For Aquinas, logical possibility is deeply world- or “order”-relative.

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