Volume 56, Issue 1, March 2016
Created and Uncreated Things
A Neo-Augustinian Solution to the Bootstrapping Problem
Theistic activism and theistic conceptual realism attempt to relieve the tension between transcendent realism about universals and a strong aseity-sovereignty doctrine. Paradoxically, both theories seem to imply that God is metaphysically prior and metaphysically posterior to his own nature. In this paper I critique one attempt to respond to this worry and offer a neo-Augustinian solution in its place. I demonstrate that Augustine’s argument for forms as ideas in the mind of God strongly suggests that only created beings need universals to ground their character. For them, divine concepts can do all of the work that universals are typically invoked to do in the contemporary literature. An uncreated being’s character needs no such grounding and can be accounted for in terms of his own concepts. If this is correct, theists may be realists about universals while maintaining the traditional read of God’s aseity and sovereignty.