ideas, divine

ideas, divine
   The word 'idea' has been used with two basic senses in English-language philosophy: (1) as a reference to Plato's Forms (universals); (2) in the eighteenth century as a broad (even indeterminate) term to refer to mental events including sense data and concepts. The phrase 'divine ideas' relates only to the first sense, as a theory that seeks to reconcile the existence of universals with theism by explaining them as divine thoughts/concepts (hence a theory of divine conceptualism). This theory has a history in the work of theologians from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas. The challenge for the theist is to reconcile the intuition of divine sovereignty/aseity - that God alone is independent in his existence - with the intuition that universals exist eternally and of necessity. Thomas Aquinas' attempt to overcome this problem through divine simplicity is at best controversial. Another problem concerns the modal necessity of universals. The challenge here, taken up by advocates of theistic actualism, is to explain how some divine thoughts can be logically necessary (for example, 7 + 5 must equal 12), presumably as God thinks them true in every possible world, and yet to maintain that they have a causal dependency in virtue of being God's thoughts. Some advocates of divine ideas have found it natural to view human cognition of divine concepts in terms of divine illumination.
   Further reading: Davis, Richard 2001; Plantinga 1980; Wippel 1993

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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