Beau Branson’s ResearchFebruary 24, 2017
On this page, you can find more information about my research, as well as links to my publications, conference presentations, and dissertation.
My dissertation, The Logical Problem of the Trinity, addresses the coherence of the doctrine of the Trinity by examining Gregory of Nyssa’s defense(s) of it in Ad Ablabium. I argue that placing him in the context of the semantics and philosophy of language of the Stoic and Greek grammarian traditions shows he intends to offer multiple defeater-defeaters, directed at audiences with divergent background assumptions, rather than one single, unified but confused argument, as he is usually read.
My interests in ancient and Hellenistic philosophy focus on metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language. My interests in metaphysics focus on universals and particulars, and the individuation of agents, events and actions – all of which impinge on the issues in philosophy of religion I focus on. Conversely, in philosophy of religion, I focus on the philosophy of the early church fathers, as well as methodological questions in philosophical theology.
More broadly, my work bridges the gap between historical theology and (analytic) philosophical theology by combining the tools of logic and analytic metaphysics and philosophy of language with work from patristics and historical scholarship. In doing so, I hope to show how both fields can benefit from a deeper engagement with one another. One of my goals is thus to model an approach to sources that is at once historically sensitive, and logically and philosophically rigorous.
Academica.edu page for Beau Branson.
A full list of publications and conference presentations can be found on my CV here.
Links to published articles and conference presentation slides will be added below, when possible:
“Ahistoricity in Analytic Theology,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly vol. 91, no. 1 (2018). (Published copy available from Publisher here. Please cite published version.)
Abstract: Analytic theology has sometimes been criticized as ahistorical. But what this means, and why it is problematic, have often been left unclear. is essay explicates and supports one way of making that charge while simultaneously showing this ahistoricity, although widespread within analytic theology, is not essential to it. Specifically, some analytic theologians treat problematic doctrines as metaphysical puzzles, constructing speculative accounts of phenomena such as the Trinity or Incarnation and taking the theoretical virtues of such accounts to be sufficient in themselves to defend traditional doctrines with no need for additional, historical premises. But due to the divergent epistemic structures of metaphysical and theological puzzles, I argue that importing this methodology into philosophical theology results in invalid or question-begging arguments, and it is unclear how a virtue-centric methodology could be repaired without collapsing into a more historical methodology, which some of the best (but unfortunately not all) analytic theologians follow.
“No New Solutions to the Logical Problem of the Trinity,” Journal of Applied Logic, Vol. 6, No. 6 (2019).
Abstract: Analytic theologians have proposed numerous “solutions” to the Logical Problem of the Trinity (LPT), mostly versions of Social Trinitarianism (ST) and Relative Identity Trinitarianism (RI). Both types of solution are controversial, but many hold out hope that further “Trinitarian theorizing” may yield some as yet unimagined, and somehow importantly different, solution to the LPT. I first give a precise definition of the LPT and of what would count as a solution to it. I then show how, though there are infinitely many possible solutions, all solutions can be grouped together into a finite, exhaustive taxonomy, based precisely on those features which make them either controversial, heretical, or inconsistent. The taxonomy reveals why ST and RI have been the major proposed solutions, and also proves that there can be no importantly different, new solutions to the LPT.
“The Intertwining of Philosophy and Religion in the Western Tradition” in Introduction to Philosophy of Religion. Rebus (funded by the Hewlett Foundation). Edited by Beau Branson. (2020)
Abstract: Philosophers have a reputation for widespread — and perhaps closed-minded — atheism. The reality, however, is quite otherwise. Philosophy and Religion have almost always been intertwined in one way or another, and the vast majority of philosophers have had some kind of religious beliefs, oftentimes central to their philosophy. This is not without good reason. Though their methods (sometimes) differ, Philosophy and Religion have always shared a number of similar goals in terms of seeking answers to life’s “Big Questions.” In this Introductory chapter, I trace and outline of the inter-related histories of Philosophy and Religion in Western / Middle-Eastern culture from antiquity to the present. In doing so, I show that Philosophy and Religion have in fact always been intertwined, that the fairly short-lived philosophical movement that gave Philosophy a reputation for being closed-minded has been unfairly caricatured, and that today there is a renewed interest in philosophical questions about religion.
“One God, the Father: the Neglected Doctrine of the Monarchy of the Father and the Analytic Debate About the Trinity,” TheoLogica: An International Journal for Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology, Vol. 6, No. 2 (2022).
Abstract: Whether Trinitarianism is coherent depends not only on whether some account of the Trinity is coherent, but on which accounts of the Trinity count as “Trinitarian.” After all, Arianism and Modalism are both accounts of the Trinity, but neither counts as Trinitarian (which is why defenses of Arianism or Modalism don’t count as defenses of Trinitarianism). This raises the question, if not just any account of the Trinity counts as Trinitarian, which do? Dale Tuggy is one of very few philosophers to give explicit definitions of Trinitarian (versus Unitarian) theology. But they are no mere formalities. They are essential to his central criticisms of both historical and contemporary forms of Trinitarianism. In this paper, I offer my own definitions of Trinitarian and Unitarian theology, contrast them with Tuggy’s, and argue for the superiority of my definitions to Tuggy’s. If Trinitarianism and Unitarianism are what Tuggy says they are, the outlook for Trinitarianism is bleak indeed. If they are what I say they are, Tuggy’s central objection to Trinitarianism fails. To show what is at stake in these pairs of definitions, I examine a doctrine much neglected in Analytic Theology, but central to Nicene Trinitarianism — the Monarchy of the Father.
“Gregory of Nyssa on the Individuation of Actions and Events,” in Eastern Christian Perspectives on Philosophy. Palgrave-Macmillan. Joshua Matthan Brown, ed. (Pre-Print Here. Please cite published version when published.)
Abstract: Since Donald Davidson’s pioneering work in the 1960’s, most philosophers have come to see events as particulars, with debate still ongoing about their precise identity conditions. In the fourth century, one hallmark of orthodoxy that emerged from the Trinitarian debates was the view that the three persons of the Trinity have what came to be known as “inseparable operations (ad extra).” The fundamental idea is that although there are three persons, they share single, token actions in regard to the created world. This requires a view on which actions are not automatically individuated by the agents that perform them. This chapter explores the evidence from St. Gregory of Nyssa’s corpus regarding how he conceived of the individuation and identity conditions of actions (energeiai) and events. It first maps out the current landscape within contemporary analytic metaphysics. Next, it briefly explains why the issue is critical to Gregory’s Trinitarian theology. Finally, it places Gregory within the contemporary landscape, showing how his position is in a sense “more Davidsonian than Davidson.”
You can find 5 or 6 hours worth of video presentation on the Monarchy of the Father here.
Also available as Power Point slides with audio narration (full set) (around 5 or 6 hours, total):
The Neglected Monarchy of the Father in Analytic Theology (Select PPT Slides)
These are the same Power Point slides split up into 5 sections.
Monarchy of the Father Presentation with Narration – Part 1
Monarchy of the Father Presentation with Narration – Part 2
Monarchy of the Father Presentation with Narration – Part 3
Monarchy of the Father Presentation with Narration – Part 4
Monarchy of the Father Presentation with Narration – Part 5
Finally, you may view a copy of my dissertation below, or download it at this link.
The Logical Problem of the Trinity © 2014 Beau Branson Some Rights Reserved. Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
You may copy and redistribute this work (but not create, copy or distribute any derivative work) in whole, and with proper attribution to the author, for non-commercial purposes only. For more information, see: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/BransonDissertation-TheLogicalProblemOfTheTrinity