I’ve been struggling between adopting one of two views on universals lately. The first view is the conceptualist view of universals which says that universals are just ideas generated in and by the mind of God, as a kind of blueprint according to which he chose to create the world. The second view is just a more radical nominalist view, perhaps better called concretism, the idea that universals do not exist or subsist in any way at all, but that they are just contingent-mind dependent constructs.
Now, one argument for the nominalist view which has kept me from being a loud and proud conceptualist has been the argument which Dr. William Lane Craig, a conretist, presents. He notes that in order for God to create universals like properties, God would actually already have to have some properties (perhaps at least one) such as the property of being powerful. Before God could create any other properties, he would have to create the property of being powerful, but he clearly couldn’t create that property, or any other property, unless he already had the property of being powerful. Thus there’s a bootstrapping problem here, so it seems.
However, I think we can cut our way through this objection. The dilemma is a false one; it isn’t the case that either the property of being powerful exists in some way independent of God, or else he ’caused’ it. Instead, since the property of being powerful is one of the superlative attributes which belongs to the Divine Nature, and since, according to the doctrine of Simplicity, that property is identical to God’s nature itself, the property ‘powerful’ is identical to God. To say the property of being powerful exists is to say, properly construed, that God exists, just like to say that “‘Being’ exists” means that God exists. The second-order property of being powerful is exemplified in a being which has it contingently, but the property ‘powerful’, as a first-order property, is just identical to the divine nature itself. The divine nature is one single thing which is intimated in a variety of second-order ways, including instances of the properties we refer to as love, power, knowledge, beauty etc. So, God doesn’t have to create the property of being powerful if the first-order property is just identical with the divine nature (identical to himself), which itself exists a se.