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This guide accompanies the following article: ‘Logic and Divine Simplicity’. Philosophy Compass 6/4 (2011): pp. 282–294, doi: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2011.00386.x

Author’s Introduction

First-order formalizations of classical theistic doctrines are increasingly used in contemporary work in philosophy of religion and philosophical theology, as a means for clarifying the conceptual structure of the doctrines and their role in inferential procedures. But there are a variety of different ways in which such doctrines have been formalized, each representing the doctrines as having different conceptual structures. Moreover, the adequacy of such formalizations as such has, at least with respect to some classes of doctrines, been disputed. One reason for disputing their adequacy derives from the conceptual impact of classical theism’s doctrine of divine simplicity.

Author Recommends

Frege, Gottlob (1997) ‘Begriffsschrift: a formula language of pure thought,’ trans. Michael Beany, in The Frege Reader, ed. Beany. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 47–78. (Originally published 1879.)

The preface contains interesting remarks about the purpose of formalization as understood by the chief pioneer of modern formal logic. These remarks are also connected by Frege to his views on the relation between thought and language more generally.

Russell, Bertrand, and Whitehead, A.N. (1910) Principia Mathematica, Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The preface and first section of the long introduction contain remarks on the purpose and advantages of formalization. Chapter 1 of the introduction contains what is probably one of the first formalizations ever of a theistic doctrine, and is given in terms of a definite description analysis.

Suppes, Patrick (1968) ‘The Desirability of Formalization in Science,’The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 65, No. 20, pp. 651–64.

Clear and concise discussion of some of the advantages of formalization in philosophical inquiry, written by a prominent contemporary American philosopher-logician.

Nieznański, Edward (1991) ‘The Beginnings of Formalization in Theology,’ in Advances in Scientific Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Paul Weingartner, eds. Gerhard Schurz and Gregory J.W. Dorn. Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Ropodi, pp. 551–9.

A valuable paper that narrates, among other things, the programme of formalizing theistic doctrines that emerged in Poland in the 1920s under the influence of the Lvov-Warsaw School. Various examples of formalizations are also given.

Quine, W.V.O. (1951) Mathematical Logic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

In Section 27 of this classic study, Quine offers a formalization of theistic doctrines which seeks to avoid the difficulties of earlier formalizations by means of a subtle extensional singleton set analysis. The proposal has not won many adherents, but is worthy of careful study nonetheless.

Woleński, Jan (2009) ‘Theism, Fideism, Atheism, Agnosticism,’ in Logic, Ethics and All That Jazz: Essays in Honour of Jordan Howard Sobel, eds. Lars-Göran Johansson, Jan Österberg, and Rysiek Sliwinski. Uppsala: Uppsala Philosophical Studies, pp. 387–400.

A concise but lucid survey of some attempts to formalize theistic doctrines and some problems besetting these attempts. Woleński also proposes his own method of formalization, which could be described as a simplified version of Quine’s method in Mathematical Logic.

Bocheński, Joseph (1965) The Logic of Religion. New York: New York University Press.

The first book-length treatment of the relation between modern logic and theism. It covers much ground, and remains very readable.

Alston, William P. (2003) ‘Religious Language and Verificationism,’ in The Rationality of Theism, eds. Paul Moser and Paul Copan. London: Routledge, pp. 17–34.

Identifies some problems with attempts at articulating theistic doctrines by means of subject-predicate language. Highly relevant to formalizations of theistic doctrines, even though this topic is not dealt with explicitly.

Kraal, Anders (2011) ‘Logic and Divine Simplicity,’Philosophy Compass.

Offers a survey of three main methods of formalizing theistic doctrines, and of some variants of these methods. Argues that certain formalizations of theistic doctrines are bound to be rejected as conceptually inadequate by all who understand the doctrines at hand within the framework provided by the traditional doctrine of divine simplicity.

Sample Syllabus

Week I: The Idea of Formalization and the Project of Formalizing Theistic Doctrines

Reading:

Frege, Gottlob (1997) ‘Begriffsschrift: a formula language of pure thought,’ trans. Michael Beany, in The Frege Reader, ed. Beany. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 47–78. (Read especially the Preface.)

Russell, Bertrand, and Whitehead, A.N. (1910) Principia Mathematica, Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Read the Preface and pp. 1–3.)

Suppes, Patrick (1968) ‘The Desirability of Formalization in Science,’The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 65, No. 20, pp. 651–64.

Nieznański, Edward (1991) ‘The Beginnings of Formalization in Theology,’ in Advances in Scientific Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Paul Weingartner, eds. Gerhard Schurz and Gregory J.W. Dorn. Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Ropodi, pp. 551–9.

Week II: Formalizing Theistic Doctrines: Three Alternative Methods

Reading:

Woleński, Jan (2009) ‘Theism, Fideism, Atheism, Agnosticism,’ in Logic, Ethics and All That Jazz: Essays in Honour of Jordan Howard Sobel, eds. Lars-Göran Johansson, Jan Österberg, and Rysiek Sliwinski. Uppsala: Uppsala Philosophical Studies, pp. 387–400.

Russell, Bertrand, and Whitehead, A.N. (1910) Principia Mathematica, Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Read pp. 31–3.)

Quine, W.V.O. (1951) Mathematical Logic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Read pp. 146–52.)

Week III: Arguments for and Against Some Formalizations of Theistic Doctrines

Reading:

Bocheński, Joseph (1965) The Logic of Religion. New York: New York University Press. (Read especially chapters 2 and 3.)

Kraal, Anders (2011) ‘Logic and Divine Simplicity,’Philosophy Compass, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 282–94.

Focus Questions

  • 1
     What do Frege, Russell and Whitehead, and Suppes understand the purpose or purposes of logical formalization to be, and why do they think formalization can achieve these purposes?
  • 2
     Woleński sketches some simple ways of formalizing theistic doctrines such as ‘God exists’ or ‘God is almighty’ in terms of 1-place predicates which he subsequently abandons in favour of other methods. What reasons lead him to abandon these more simple methods of formalization?
  • 3
     What are the advantages of the definite description formalization of theistic doctrines offered by Russell and Whitehead?
  • 4
     Quine offers a subtle formalization of the theistic doctrine ‘God exists’ in terms of singleton sets. What problems are Quine’s formalization intended to accommodate, and how does it seek to accommodate them?
  • 5
     Which relative merits or demerits are there in Bocheński’s and Kraal’s respective arguments for and against the adequacy of certain formalizations of theistic doctrines?