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Conceptualism and the Logos

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Some time ago (I think sometime last year) I was reading this article by Dr. William Lane Craig on Evangelical Philosophical Society’s blog. In the article, Craig talks about the Platonic forms, the doctrine of creation, and morality.

The Platonic forms are eternal and uncreated abstract objects or ideas. Any material object that we can perceive has a perfect immaterial form. If we were to draw a circle, for instance, that circle would have a perfect form. This same concept applies to immaterial things such as numbers, emotions, and designs. These things all have immaterial forms. Love itself is not a material object but rather an abstract form/object.

Dr. Craig objects to the Platonic forms by saying that it creates a metaphysical plurality of objects. Craig says, “It seems to me that Platonism is so problematic theologically as to be deeply unchristian. It postulates an incomprehensible number of beings, real objects in the mind-independent world, which exist independently of God, so that God becomes just one being among many.” And this is entirely true, Platonism would make God lesser than the only necessarily existing Being.

But would the Christian have to deny the Platonic forms altogether? I do not think this is necessarily the case. Middle Platonism (or conceptualism) says that abstract objects exist, not independently of God, but in God’s very mind. This is to say that God knows all formal causes eternally and sustains their very existence. Some would think this might undermine God’s creative power but it doesn’t! Before creation, God had to know all possible worlds, that is, all worlds which are logically capable of creating. God had to know the blueprint of everything within each possible world. Also, if things like wisdom, love, and other emotions were created then that means these things weren’t part of God’s ontology. But we know this to be false as God is love and God is wise.

John talks about the Logos and about creation in his gospel. “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3). This seems to support conceptualism as all things came through Him. This is quite interesting and also has significant advantages for the Christian when defending objective morality

The Euthyphro Dilemma (which comes from a dialogue of the same name written by Plato) presents some problems to the person who denies conceptualism. The dilemma basically says “(1)are things good or bad because God says they’re good or bad, (2)or are things independently good or bad from God’s commands?” If the Christian accepts the latter then morality is not grounded in God. Likewise, if the Christian accepts the former, he becomes a divine command theorist. The atheist could then say that the Christian accepts subjective morality if they adhere to the first part of the dilemma. But if conceptualism is true, then God is the source of morals, not necessarily His commands. From His very ontology flows goodness. God’s commands must therefore coincide with His essence otherwise there would be some internal contradiction with Himself.

I believe conceptualism completely ties in with Scripture and it seems to me to be an orthodox concept. Any thoughts on the subject?

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1 Comment

  1. Wyatt Graham says:

    I totally disagree. John 1:3 does not support your point, and God does not have to know all concepts in his mind, in precisely the way you defined.

    You say, “Before creation, God had to know all possible worlds, that is, all worlds which are logically capable of creating. God had to know the blueprint of everything within each possible world.” I say, “prove to me the concept of possible worlds is a legitimate category of thought in the mind of God; in fact, prove to me that God had to have these non-existent concepts in mind.”

    if God knew precisely the world he would actualize, then how could there be other possible words which he could create? In fact, what does it mean that God knows everything? Does this mean he knows every possibility of every potential world? What if there is no potential for a world to be actualized because of the impossibility of the contrary; that is, because God would and could and did only actualize the only possible world—this world.

    So I’m a hypocrite, however. I wrote a senior paper arguing for possible worlds and God’s actualization of our world via compatibilistic middle knowledge.

    Alright, go ahead, fight me.

    *Note: I don’t really care if I’m right; I just wanted to disagree with you.*

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