Divinity and Maximal Greatness

Divinity and Maximal Greatness

Divinity and Maximal Greatness

Divinity and Maximal Greatness


This book examines the divine nature in terms of maximal greatness. It investigates each attribute associated with maximal greatness - omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, eternity, and beauty, arguing that maximal greatness is necessary and sufficient for divinity.


I have argued in Chapter 1 for the view that the possession of maximal greatness is a necessary and sufficient condition for the possession of divinity; I unpacked this as the view that every divine being there may be has, ceteris paribus, every great-making property to the optimal level. I think that knowledge is one great-making property: we mostly think that knowledge is a good thing - we want more of it, and consider it the sort of thing that we would like to be possessed by any children we have. In addition, we are, I think, inclined to admire the knowledgeable, and pity the ignorant - else why are there so many knowledge contests in the media? It might be responded that we desire knowledge only as a means to further ends, such as getting a job, getting money, impressing people etc. I think, however, that there are enough people that apparently devote their lives to knowledge as an end in itself to make this seem counter-intuitive.

I do not mean to suggest that it is merely the quantity rather than also the type of knowledge that confers greatness. I do think it is clear that, ceteris paribus, the more knowledge the better, i.e. that a being with more knowledge is greater, ceteris paribus, than a being with less knowledge. Nevertheless, it may be that a being with less, but more important, knowledge, is greater than a being with more, but less important, knowledge. This is not a trivial qualification, but, since we are suggesting that a divine being knows everything, it follows immediately that he knows everything important. Hence the issue of types of knowledge may be put on one side for the purposes of this discussion.

The above considerations lead me to suggest that knowledge is a great-making quality, and, hence, that a maximally great being should have it optimally, provided this is compatible with possessing optimally the other great-making properties. It seems also that knowledge is a maxi-optimality property, i.e. that anything that has optimal knowledge will have maximal knowledge, and conversely. There are

1 It could not be put to one side if there were strong arguments that certain types of knowledge were incompatible with divinity. For instance, some Neoplatonists suggested that it was beneath the dignity of the divine to be concerned with such mundane matters as life on Earth. I do not think that this is a strong argument; it perhaps rests on the implausible premiss that the knower is like the known. Or perhaps it rests on the premiss that life on Earth is mutable and a divine being is immutable. I do not accept, however, that any divine being is immutable in the strong way that would be required for this argument.

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