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Original scientific paper

Divine Simplicity and The Myth of Modal Collapse: An Islamic Neoplatonic Response

Khalil Andani ; Augustana College

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This paper responds to the modal collapse argument against divine simplicity or classical theism offered by neo-classical or complex theists. The modal collapse argument claims that if God is both absolutely simple and absolutely necessary, then God’s act of creation is absolutely necessary, and therefore, the existence of the created world is also absolutely necessary. This means that God and His creation collapse into a single modal category of absolute necessity without any contingent beings. My response is grounded in the Islamic Neoplatonic philosophy of Ibn Sina and the Ismaili tradition. I offer four arguments that allow a Muslim Neoplatonist to absorb a modal collapse in a possible worlds modality while negating modal collapse within an Avicennian modality: First, the modal collapse objection is based on a possible worlds framework whose concept of necessity is overly broad; this framework fails to distinguish between God as ontologically necessary in Himself, created being as dependently necessary through another, and mere logical necessity, all of which are recognized by Ibn Sina and Islamic thinkers. Second, modal collapse arguments only demonstrate that creation is necessary through another but fails to prove that creation has ontological necessity or aseity––which only pertains to God; thus, no consequential modal collapse ensues when one’s modality recognizes creation as a “dependent necessary being” despite being modally necessary. Third, Islamic philosophers have a non-libertarian concept of God’s will and freedom that is immune to modal collapse objections. Finally, I argue that all classical and neo-classical theists must embrace a modally necessary creation because libertarian models of God’s will entail uncaused and brutely contingent effects.


modal collapse; divine simplicity; Ismaili; Avicenna; libertarian; theism; Neoplatonism; necessity

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