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DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-K3570-1
Published
2015
DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K3570-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2015
Retrieved January 21, 2018, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/aseity/v-1

Article Summary

‘Aseity’ (short for ‘God’s aseity’) is the traditional divine attribute whereby God is said to exist of or from himself. Although the Latin phrase ‘a se’ (from which the Latin ‘aseitas’ and English ‘aseity’ derive) might suggest that God is from himself as an effect from a cause, only a minority of theists have held that God literally causes himself. In affirming aseity, most theists intend rather to claim that God is a self-sufficient or self-existent being who, in some significant sense, lacks dependence on other things. God’s lack of dependence on anything besides himself distinguishes him radically from creatures, every one of which depends on God, and therefore on at least one thing besides itself.

The claim that God is an independent or self-sufficient being has strong support within the Western tradition. Foreshadowed in classical Greek philosophy and taught at least implicitly in Jewish and Christian scripture, the claim is explicitly affirmed by the Church Fathers, the medieval philosopher-theologians, and the most prominent theistic philosophers of the classical modern period. Aseity has been thought by many simply to follow from other claims central to theism. Theists claim God to be the First Cause and the most perfect being possible. Since the First Cause cannot itself be caused, God will at least lack causal dependence on another. Moreover, if lack of dependence is a perfection, then God will lack dependence to the extent consistent with his other perfections.

While certain contemporary theists reject some of the traditional divine attributes, it is difficult to find any who reject the idea that God enjoys a special independence from other things. There are, however, various ways in which aseity might be defined, based on precisely what sort of dependence God is said to lack. Definitions of aseity will turn on, and vary in strength in accordance with, the broader metaphysical and theological commitments of different theists.

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Citing this article:
Grant, W. Matthews. Aseity, 2015, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K3570-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/aseity/v-1.
Copyright © 1998-2018 Routledge.

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