Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Aristotelians ought to be presentists


Presentism holds that within the temporal domain, only the present exists and the past and future do not.  Alex Pruss thinks that Aristotelians shouldn’t be presentists.  That would be news to Aristotle, Aquinas, and other presentist Aristotelians.  I agree with them rather than with Alex, and I think that presentism is in fact the natural view to take if one starts with an Aristotelian view of the nature of physical reality, and of the nature of time in particular.  I spell all this out at length in Aristotle’s Revenge.  Here I will just try briefly to convey the general idea.

Remember that change, for the Aristotelian, entails the actualization of potential.  For example, when a green banana ripens and turns yellow, the banana’s potential to be yellow is actualized, and when it later begins to rot and turns brown, its potential to be brown is actualized.  Now, time, for the Aristotelian, is just the measure of change with respect to succession.  When we say that it took a week for a banana to ripen and then rot, we are measuring the rate at which these changes succeeded one another.  Time thus piggybacks on change.  

Hence, the material world is a temporal world precisely because it is a changeable world.  For the Aristotelian, matter just is, fundamentally, the potentiality for form, and change is the actualization of that potentiality – matter’s taking on new forms which supplant the ones that had been there before.  Time actually passes only insofar as this supplanting occurs.  Because God is pure actuality without potentiality, his mode of existence is strictly eternal or timeless rather than temporal. 

Angels occupy a strange middle ground.  Because they are immaterial, angels are, unlike physical objects, imperishable.  They have no matter that can lose substantial form, which is what happens when a physical substance perishes.  So, being immaterial, they are not in time.  Still, angels, like us, have to be created, and they can exhibit something analogous to change of a mental sort.  Hence they are not eternal either.  This middle ground between temporality and eternity is called aeviternity.  

Now, suppose God creates a physical universe with only a single thing in it, an unripe green banana.  Suppose that he does so in such a way that its natural tendencies are miraculously suspended.  For example, it does not begin to ripen.  It is changeable, but its potentialities are not actualized, so that there is in fact no change.

For this reason, there is also no passage of time in this imagined world.  Hence there are no past or future events.  Is there a present?  Surely there is, because since this is a material world, we are not talking about eternity and we are not talking about aeviternity.  We are talking about the third alternative, a temporal world.  It’s just a world in which time has been suspended – precisely because change has been suspended – rather than being altogether atemporal.  It’s now in this world, even if what is now never becomes past.  It is for that reason a presentist world, since the present exists and past and future do not.

Now suppose instead that change is not suspended and the banana begins to ripen.  It goes from green to yellow.  What that means is that it has lost its greenness and gained yellowness, and that in turn boils down to its no longer being merely potentially yellow but instead actually yellow, and its no longer being actually green.  And if the process continues until the banana rots, the banana will eventually actualize its potential to be brown.  In this case we have the passage of time.  

While the banana is still yellow, though, does the future, brown state of the banana exist? Of course not, because the brownness is at this point still in the banana only potentially, not actually.  The future state of the banana no more exists in this scenario than it did on the first scenario, in which change was suspended.  There being change, and thus temporal passage, on this second scenario in no way suffices to make it true that future things and events exist.  They will exist, but until the potentialities are actualized, they do not.

But what about the past, such as the banana’s being green?  Does that exist after the banana has turned yellow?  How could it?  After the banana has turned yellow, its greenness is at that point no longer actual, any more than the brownness is actual.  Hence the greenness no more exists than the brownness does.  The greenness did exist, just as the brownness will exist.  But neither does exist.  The past, like the future, no more exists on this scenario than it did in the first scenario, in which change had been suspended.  So on this scenario too, we have a presentist world.  But the actual world is in all relevant respects like this second scenario.  It’s just that there are a lot more things in the actual world than a single banana.  So the actual world is a presentist world.

Now, so far I have left only implicit a further, key element of the Aristotelian view of time, and making it explicit will help make it clear where the illusion that past and future events exist comes from.  Remember that I said that time is the measure of change with respect to succession.  But who is doing the measuring?  The answer is that the mind does the measuring.  There is a sense, then, in which time is mind-dependent.  The qualifier “in a sense” is crucial, however, because the Aristotelian view of time is not an idealist one.

The best way to understand it is to think of it on analogy with the Aristotelian position on universals. For the Aristotelian, a universal like triangularity does not exist as a Platonic Form, in a third realm distinct from concrete individuals on the one hand and minds on the other.  It exists only as abstracted by the mind from concrete individual triangles.  At the same time, it is not a free creation of the mind.  Triangularity is really there in the concrete individual triangles, but just mixed in with their individualizing features, as it were, rather than existing there qua universal.  The Aristotelian view is not Platonist, but it is not nominalist either.

Now, where time is concerned, the Aristotelian rejects the idealist view that time is entirely a creation of the mind, just as he rejects the nominalist view that universals are free creations of the mind.  But neither does the Aristotelian accept the idea that time exists as a kind of substance in its own right, entirely apart from the world of changing things, as the Newtonian absolutist does.  That, for the Aristotelian, would be comparable to the Platonic error of regarding universals as substances in their own right, occupying their own distinctive realm.  To speak of time as if it existed entirely apart from change and apart from the minds that measure change is like speaking of triangularity as if it were a Platonic Form that existed entirely apart from all concrete individual triangles and all minds.

One thing that can happen when we start to Platonize time in this way is that we take the units in terms of which the mind measures change – seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, and so on – and we reify them.  For example, we start talking about last month, or about the year 1947, as if it were some entity that we have in some way moved past, and of next month, and the year 2047, as if they too were entities, but ones that we haven’t arrived at yet.  We concretize abstractions, as we do when we talk about the Form of Triangularity. 

This is exacerbated by the tendency in physics to confuse mathematical models of physical reality with physical reality itself.  Especially since space too tends in physics to be represented in a highly abstract mathematical way, the highly abstract mathematical representation of time that physics works with facilitates thinking of time as space-like, which further aggravates the tendency to think of all moments of time as in some way equally real.  From the Aristotelian point of view, these are all just variations on the same Platonizing error.  The B-theory of time, speculations about the possibility of time travel, and other exotica familiar from the contemporary philosophy of time literature have diverse philosophical motivations – including philosophical motivations disguised as scientific ones – but a major part of the story is this basic error (as the Aristotelian sees it) of reifying abstractions.  (Again, these points are all developed at length in Aristotle’s Revenge.)

Let me now turn, then, to Alex Pruss’s objection.  Alex writes:

A foundational commitment of Aristotelian philosophy is that all facts are grounded in what substances and features intrinsic to substances, namely forms and accidents, exist. But it is possible for the past to have been different without there being any difference in what substances and features intrinsic to substances presently exist. Therefore, the Aristotelian cannot equate present existence with existence.

In other words, Aristotelians cannot escape the standard grounding arguments against presentism.

End quote.  What he has in mind by “the standard grounding arguments against presentism” are arguments like the truthmaker objection and the objection from existence-entailing relations, which I have addressed in my recent exchanges with Bill Vallicella.

Now, Alex is right that the Aristotelian grounds facts in existing substances and features of substances.  But he errs in assuming that this thesis simply must be read in a way that would pose problems for the presentist.  That Aristotelians like Aristotle and Aquinas were themselves presentists should make that obvious enough.  There are facts about the White House and there are facts about the north tower of the old World Trade Center, whereas there are not, in the same sense, facts about Stark Tower (from the Marvel comics and movies).  The reason is that the White House does exist and the north tower of the World Trade Center did exist, whereas Stark Tower is purely fictional.  

What the Aristotelian thesis that Alex cites is intended to rule out are views that deny the ontologically fundamental status of substances, as well as idealism, relativism, and other views that might be taken to deny the reality of ordinary material substances.  Presentism fully respects such concerns.  Again, there really was a north tower of the old World Trade Center, even though it no longer exists.  We needn’t somehow translate that statement into a statement about what exists now, or what exists in some tenseless way, in order to capture the relevant point.  The fact that the tower did exist is sufficient to respect the Aristotelian concern to ground all facts in reality.  

Nothing more need be said, it seems to me, to reconcile the Aristotelian’s presentism with his concern to ground all facts in real substances and their features.  If someone has a problem with this reconciliation, I submit that it is not Aristotelianism that is the source of the worry, but some other philosophical commitment.

128 comments:

  1. Wait, so existential endurance doesn't count as change?

    If rocks were incorruptible, would that mean they don't change and aren't passing through time, even though they exist from moment to moment?


    If only an unchanging banana existed, and it ceased to exist in 5 minutes, it seems there really would be time as moments of existence would still be distinct and real.

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    1. "If only an unchanging banana existed, and it ceased to exist in 5 minutes, it seems there really would be time as moments of existence would still be distinct and real."

      How can you possibly measure the duration of the existence of the banana in an unchanging world? What makes it the case that it existed for 5 minutes as opposed to 5 years or 5 whatevers?

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    2. @grodrigues,


      It seems intuitively plausible that the very continuation of the existence of something is a type of change. Otherwise incorruptible rocks on a beach wouldn't go through change since they only continue to exist, and no internal or external potential is being actualised about them.

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    3. @grodrigues,


      Or rather, such rocks wouldn't go through time, since they wouldn't be changing in any way at all. So the argument here is that the continuation of existence implies time and thus change in some sense.

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    4. 'Continuance of existing' presupposes time, making the whole thing circular. It's like demanding 'empirical' evidence for a physical universe.

      [T]here are no objections of principle against the introduction of this hypothesis [gen. rel.], by which space and time are deprived of the last trace of objective reality.
      -- Albert Einstein, "Explanation of the Movement of Mercury's Perihelion on the Basis of the General Theory of Relativity,"

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    5. In Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas classifies the heavenly bodies as being aeviternal due to the description you just provided.
      Today we know that they are matter like most common things, but in no case are they eternal.

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    6. @JoeD:

      "It seems intuitively plausible that the very continuation of the existence of something is a type of change."

      O'Floinn already pointed out one problem, I will point another: it does not seem at all plausible, intuitively or not. "Continuation of existence" is the result of the single, direct, timeless creation act of God -- there is no division or real distinction between bringing into existence and sustaining in existence. Creation is *not* change. What exactly does change in "continuation of existence"? God is impassible. The banana (or in the latest response the rock)? By hypothesis the banana does not change. So what is the substratum that undergoes change? There is no candidate. What potentialities are actualized? None, because, once again, creation is not change.

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    7. @grodrigues,



      There is a distinction between creation and conservation - after all, they are called differently for a reason.

      It's whether or not that distinction is a formal or real one that's important.


      When I said that existential endurance was change, what I meant was that time still passes during that.

      If an incorruptible rock existed for 5 minutes and stopped existing after that, the rock would still clearly have passed through time, since the moment of the first full minute of existence is distinct from the second full minute of existence.

      In other words, I was asking about whether or not continued existence that is temporally measured would count as a type of change, since time implies change, and every moment of an incorruptible and unchanging thing's existence is distinct from another moment.

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    8. @OFloinn,


      Which was one of the things that made me ask my question.

      If an incorruptible and unchanging rock were to exist for 5 minutes, and then ceased existing, it would then be the case that it was passing through time.

      So contrary to what Feser said, it seems there would indeed be passage through time even if no change happened to the rock.

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    9. If an incorruptible and unchanging rock were to exist for 5 minutes, and then ceased existing, it would then be the case that it was passing through time.

      What would make it be the case that it existed for five minutes, rather than (say) two hundred years? You aren't positing a situation in which time is passing; you are imagining a rock and labeling it as 'five minutes old' and not giving anyone any indication of why it's five minutes.

      Measuring a time requires a clock, which is a change; so in fact to say that a rock existed for exactly five minutes is to say that the rock existed relative to some change that recurred five times.

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    10. @Brandon,


      Well, if a rock came into being at a certain point, and five minutes after it started to exist it then ceased existing, the rock would in that case have existed for 5 full minutes.

      While measures of time do usually require some other change that puts it in context, I think what I'm trying to put in words is the intuition that, even if the only thing that existed was an incorruptible rock who's existence lasted for five minutes (and it started to exist five minutes before it stopped existing), that would nevertheless require a measure of time, since the fact we can easily conceive five minute long existences of incorruptible things points to that.

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    11. This just restates the problem: you have not said what it is in the situation that makes it five minutes rather than some other length of time, you've just arbitrarily set it, and thus merely assumed what the intuition is supposed to be supporting.

      The only measures of time are changes; nothing can be measured in time without a change that can function as a clock.

      the fact we can easily conceive five minute long existences of incorruptible things

      You have not established that this can be done without reference to some kind of change; you've simply asserted it.

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    12. If the rock were held unchanging by a supernatural imposition, (e.g. by short-circuiting the natural processes of vibration and electron motion internally), but in all other ways the rock were the same as ordinary rock, it would be of such a nature as to be capable of change.

      Now let's suppose that God creates the rock, holds it unchanged, and then lets it cease to exist. If "no time occurs", then it would seem to be the case that the rock does not endure for any interval of time. In which case, the rock's _existing_ and its _cessation_ would not be separated in time. In effect, you seem to be saying that the rock would both exist and not-exist, and we would not have the option of using "not at the same time" to distinguish, and thus -maintain the principle of non-contradiction.

      It seems to make more sense (to me) to allow that a thing that is of such a nature as to be capable of change has the attribute of temporal sort of existence whether it undergoes change or not. And it seems odd indeed for the attribute of temporal existence to apply only upon the change of something else. This seems, also, what Ed is implying by saying that it has a present even if there is no change.

      Even granting Aristotle's definition of time as the measure of motion with respect to succession, it seems logically necessary that if the rock has temporal existence, it's being must precede its cessation - so at least to THAT extent there is "succession" of a sort. Hence, even if there is no "interval" of time as we normally imagine such a thing, there would still be the distinction of being and cessation, and that distinction cannot but be temporal in some sense for a thing that has temporal existence. What sort, I have no good suggestion.

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    13. Tony,

      I think that as soon as the rock ceased to exist, there would no longer be any potential for time of the sort you describe. I think part of the problem is you are reifying time in the Platonic sense that Dr. Feser describes.

      What if sounds like you are saying is this:

      At time t0 we have nothingness.
      At time t1 we have a rock.
      At time t2 we have nothingness.

      Treating creation as a transition from t0 to t1 and annihilation as a transition from t1 to t2. But the traditional Thomistic understanding is that t0 and t2 do not exist at all. It is not as if the clock is running in the void. Therefore all you would have is t1 (a rock exists). And that would be the totality of the finite universe. You could predicate whatever you want about the rock at t1, but you cannot say that the rock does not exist at t0, for there is no t0. And you cannot say the rock does not exist at t1 (because it does exist at t1). Therefore PNC is intact.

      It reminds me of Augustine’s response to the old pagan objection to Creation Ex Nihilo:. If the universe began, what was God doing for eternity before that? The response is that God was not “doing” anything because there WAS nothing. Time did not begin until the universe began. It is not as if God waited around for 50 billion years, finally got bored with being a Trinity and decided to make himself a nice live-action soap opera. God eternally creates the finite (and non-eternal) universe. That is why God is said to be outside of time and not merely the sum-total of all time. In the same way, “nothingness” can be thought of as being “outside” time strictly because it is nothing and this cannot be in or a part of anything.




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    14. Scott, I recognize the tendency to fall into the mistake of ascribing - as you say - either a "coming to be" of the rock, or times t0, t1, and t2. However, I tried to avoid both of those errors. Maybe I failed, but I tried.

      Creating is not the same thing as the coming-to-be of substantial change, you are right about that. I was not assuming that there was a coming-to-be, only a "being" of the rock.

      Surely the cessation of the rock is a different "state of affairs" (using the phrase by analogy than univocally) than its being, simply. At one point (using "point" temporally the way a presentist would) there is a rock, there is a being, and yet somehow it is also true that there is no rock, because (according to the hypothesis, God allows the rock to cease to exist and it ceases being). In order to say that, we have to ascribe to the latter statement a qualifier that refers it to a different state of affairs than what obtains when there is a rock. I offer you the floor and ask how to speak of this without a verb tense change, and so that we are not asserting both "the rock exists" and "the rock does not exist" simply.

      It matters not at all that God can keep everything straight, he is not the one who has the job of describing temporal truth so we can understand it. And it does no good to say "If there is a rock and nothing else and God holds the rock in stasis then we would not exist and we could not speak so there is no way of any time-bound intelligence saying 'the rock exists'." The presentist hypothesis here demands that we be allowed to describe the temporal or non-temporal truths that WOULD obtain in the hypothetical situation and if we were (outside of time and creation) able to speak of it. Unless, of course, the hypothesis of an unchanging sole rock is inherently impossible or contradictory.

      Since, as I believe, being is logically prior to cessation of being, we have to be able to handle the description of "affairs" or the said hypothesized universe in a way that allows that being is logically prior to cessation. And it is irrelevant (for this purpose) whether the cessation be that of passing away that is substantial change in a material being, or annihilation that obtains if God were to cease maintaining something in existence. Either way, there is a priority of being over cessation.

      Perhaps the easy way out is just to refuse the hypothesis and claim that if there is a material universe at all, there is change occuring, period - and thus no rock in stasis as the whole of creation. But unless someone can show that God cannot hold a sole material being in stasis, I don't see that we can accept this facile response.

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    15. Tony,

      I do not think you need to refuse the hypothesis. That would be a cop out.

      I think it is interesting that you say being is prior to cessation of being. Most people would think of non-being as being prior. You have state t0 of nothingness and THEN state t1 of something. You can really make it crazy by having new rocks continually blink in and out of existence (at t3, t4, t5, etc.).

      I would concede that we, being temporal beings, typically imagine creation and destruction as a change in time, but I think that that is a mere mental relation. In reality, there is no change because it is not changing from anything or into anything.

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    16. Most people would think of non-being as being prior.

      But I am not referring to "non-being" simply, but to cessation. Surely there is a truth there DIFFERENT from "the rock does not exist" if God created it and then let it cease to exist, a truth that reflects that God created it but is not creating it. Yes, I used past tense there. Again, I ask you to describe the situation without doing so but also without saying simply "the rock exists" and "the rock does not exist". It cannot be reasonably said that after (insofar as we can say "after" and not more than that) God has created the rock, and has let it cease to exist, that "there are no created things" is the full description of all truths about created being. Of course it is not - we just SAID "God created a being".

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    17. @Tony,


      Yes, that is my main argument that I wanted to make in my OP.

      It's intuitively easy to understand that if an unchanging incorruptible rock were to exist, it can also stop to exist. But that would require that the rock's existence has duration.

      And that duration may be shorter or longer. In other words, time (considered as duration or endurance) still applies even to unchanging incorruptible things with regards to their continued existence.

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    18. Tony said,

      In which case, the rock's _existing_ and its _cessation_ would not be separated in time. In effect, you seem to be saying that the rock would both exist and not-exist, and we would not have the option of using "not at the same time" to distinguish, and thus -maintain the principle of non-contradiction.

      Perhaps I am just misunderstanding the argument, but is this really an issue? Because the rock would not be existing and ceasing in the same respect (and if the rock is not measurable in terms of time, then the 'at the same time' part would simply not be applicable); the latter would just be the statement that there is some kind of limit to the rock's existence. Even on the sharpest distinction between place and time, it would not be fundamentally different from a point's existing here and only here.

      In English, in fantasy and science fiction stories and the like, we sometimes use the phrase 'freezing time', which always describes a cessation of change. If God creates the rock, at that moment freezes time, and annihilates the rock, how much time are we talking? Well, if we take time as genuinely being frozen, then no time passed, just ex hypothesi. And if we hold that time's being frozen is just a figure of speech nothing other than that change stopped, stasis, then what could conceivably ground an answer to the question of how much time has passed?

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    19. In English, in fantasy and science fiction stories and the like, we sometimes use the phrase 'freezing time', which always describes a cessation of change.

      True, we do have that expression. But what it invariably means is that God (or some magical being) "freezes" most things to preempt change in them, but does not freeze everything, so that something or other in the story can happen while "everything else" remains unchanged. It is completely uninteresting and irrelevant to story-making if change stopped for EVERYTHING "for a time" and then re-started: doing so would have no bearing on the story whatsoever.

      If God creates the rock, at that moment freezes time, and annihilates the rock, how much time are we talking?

      We only need enough to suppose that the prior being of the rock and the successor not-being of the rock are not said of the same present moment. What is the least amount of time needed?

      Perhaps I am just misunderstanding the argument, but is this really an issue? Because the rock would not be existing and ceasing in the same respect

      And precisely what respect carries the burden of distinction? We supposed, here, that there is no change occurring. Nothing is ever different ABOUT the rock, other than its existing and then (there we go again) not existing.

      I maintain that the state of "all reality" (including both God and everything else) is different after the rock ceases to exist as compared to the state before it existed: on one perspective, it would be true that "God will create a rock" and (in that perspective) not true that "God did create the rock", and on the other that under a different perspective "God did create a rock" and not true that "God will create the rock". In order to say (under the latter perspective) that the statement "God did create the rock" is "not true" one has to say that God did not create - and then what is the meaning of our supposition to begin with? But if the statement "God did create the rock" is true after the rock ceased to be, (in whatever sense that past tense can possibly be valid) then that sense allows us to assert such a temporal framework to the rock even in the absence of change.

      Speaking of this thought-experiment not in sheer physical terms but moral and spiritual, one might easily argue that the notion of God creating a non-spiritual being (a rock) that is by nature capable of change, and supernaturally hold it in stasis in a universe consisting of only the rock and nothing else, and then let it lapse into non-existence, is a morally repulsive hypothesis: that God could have no possible reason to create so, and this perhaps underlies why we are unable to fashion a rational way of speaking about it. That is, maybe there really is something metaphysically nonsensical about the hypothesis, which we are ignoring ex hypothesis.

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    20. We only need enough to suppose that the prior being of the rock and the successor not-being of the rock are not said of the same present moment. What is the least amount of time needed?

      If I'm not misunderstanding you, you are assuming that any time is needed; but whether time or something else is the correct category for the difference is precisely the point at issue.

      And precisely what respect carries the burden of distinction?

      The relation between an effect and the cause as source of its existence is distinct from the relation between an effect and its cause as the reason why it has an end. It's very much the same point Scotus makes with regard to the Immaculate Conception: there is a logical distinction here that requires a logical ordering, so the logical instants are distinguishable, even though we are not talking about a difference in time.

      I maintain that the state of "all reality" (including both God and everything else) is different after the rock ceases to exist as compared to the state before it existed

      I don't know what the 'state of all reality' is, and I lack the omniscience required to say anything more than very indirectly and abstractly about it, so I can only be tentative here. But there are a few possibilities, depending on the exact scenario. If the rock is the only thing that exists, how is there an 'after the rock ceases to exist' and a 'before the rock ceases to exist'? It sounds very much like a figure of speech for talking about a limit. Nobody denies that there is a difference between being and non-being; but difference is not itself something that requires either change or temporality -- there are lots of kinds of differences that are nontemporal. Again, the difference would be analogous to difference in location, which is a nontemporal difference, but it's hard to say how similar or in what ways it would be different without knowing what, exactly the difference is.

      (2) On the other hand, if there are other things that preexist and postexist the rock, so that what changes is their relation to the rock, then we are really not talking about time for the rock but time for the other things. It's exactly equivalent to what you said about freezing time: for the rock time is frozen, for other things not, and any talk about time is entirely in terms of the relation of those other things to the rock, and not derived simply from the rock itself.

      It's perhaps best not to talk about the rock at all, if scenario (1) is in play. It becomes just a matter of the universe: God creates a universe (let's assume we aren't talking about a counterfactual version of this universe but just a different universe from ours), it has no changes, He annihilates it. Since there are no changes, there is no way to differentiate large intervals or short intervals, which we do by clocks, which by definition are changes; so on the assumption that it's temporal, we have no way of determining while it goes on whether it lasts a long time, or a short time, or an infinitesimal time, or an infinite-but-bounded time, and we're not before or after or eckwise to it according to any common measure, so, since we don't normally use our language to talk about things of that sort, none of our tenses are strictly accurate on the assumption, because they all assume some common measure that allows coordination. I suppose you could use literary present, as we usually do in English, or literary past, as the French do. But since we have no common measure, we aren't actually talking about what's true 'before' God created it, or what's true 'after'; we have no way to measure such befores and afters, even assuming that they exist, and therefore no way to talk about them accurately. In our universe none of the claims you are making are literally true; you have to ampliate, as the old terminology would say, to all universes God creates, and then you're not using a normal tense, by definition.

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  2. I disagree that angels can't be divided into types.

    The presupposition that categorization into types = existence of accidents is, I don't think, entirely correct. Angels despite being res cognitant (sp?), are still psychic beings, which means psychological types ought to apply to them. For instance, human minds are either extraverted or introverted, so it ought to be conceivable that some angels are introverted and others are extraverted.

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    1. @Cogniblog,


      Most of the things we understand as psychological types are a consequence of certain physical qualities.

      For example, extraversion is intimately related to the sensory enviroment in which one is in by definition, so that's a big no-no for immaterial beings who don't have senses.

      If one decides to use Jungian terminology, then angels have neither Sensing nor Feeling functions, since they are immaterial.

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    2. Most of the things we understand as psychological types are a consequence of certain physical qualities.

      Then those are really neurological qualities and there
      are no such things as psychic qualities...except for intellectual power.

      For example, extraversion is intimately related to the sensory enviroment in which one is in by definition, so that's a big no-no for immaterial beings who don't have senses.

      I don't think this is how Jung defined extraversion. In Jung, extraversion = spatially infinite. He proposed this definition as a parsimonious explanation for why some people get energized by participating in social networks and others didn't. Social networks exhibit the small-world phenomenon which means they can store an infinite amount of spatial information. So people whose minds are spatially infinite, according to Jung, are going to get energized by socializing.

      Because of this, why can't some angelic minds be spatially infinite and others finite? Maybe those can be inherent qualities of res cognitans

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    3. @Cogniblog,


      What is universal to all humans is immaterial intellect and will. These are the two psychic-related qualities that are immaterial.

      Likewise with angels, who are subsistent intellects and wills. That's not to say angels aren't unique and diverse. Every angel is it's own species, but their nature cannot be just simply put into modern psychological categories.


      As for spatial information, angels by definition aren't located in space, so they don't interact with it like spatial beings, nor is their knowledge acquired or modeled after spatial beings. Their knowledge of the material cosmos (and thus space) is innate, exhaustive and perfect, much more so than ours, even at the very first moment of their existence.

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    4. What is universal to all humans is immaterial intellect and will. These are the two psychic-related qualities that are immaterial.

      In human beings pattern-matching intellect is spatial and emotional intellect is temporal. Why? It's easy to see if you try. Memory of facts is made of propositions which are points while emotional memories are made of events. Space is made of points but not events while time is made of events but not points. People who are extremely emotionally intelligent are actually masters of time.

      Therefore if human minds have immaterial intellect you still have to grapple with both facts that there is cognitive intellect and there is emotional intellect.

      As for spatial information, angels by definition aren't located in space, so they don't interact with it like spatial beings

      Physical space is just one type of space! So it's unwarranted to conclude "angels have no relationship to space" from "angels don't exist in physical space." Do angels have fellowship with one another? Bam! That's one type of space right there.

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    5. What we know about angels, we know through either a conclusion of natural reason, or revelation. So even if angels have 'types', we couldn't know anything about them or what they are, surely?

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    6. @Unknown I still want to know whether or not my reasoning, even if it leads to an incorrect conclusion, still makes sense and is reasonable.

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    7. @Cogniblog,


      Your definitions of intellect and space is what may be causing some confusion.

      Intellect isn't primarily about pattern-matching or remembering events. It's what grasps and abstracts concepts and propositions. These things are immaterial. Memory (at least that of material things and which is done by the body) and emotions aren't immaterial.

      And there is no division between cognitive intellect and emotional intellect. There is just intellect, period, because to grasp and possess immaterial things requires unity and simplicity, and is thus done by one thing only.


      And as for the fellowship of the angels, that too is immaterial. And as immaterial doesn't involve the senses or sensory qualities such as emotions.

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    8. @JoeD you said every angel is "one of a kind," but IIRC, Dr. Feser said that angels only differ in will and intellect. So why doesn't that make them all of the same species?

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    9. sensory qualities such as emotions. Why is thinking about an equilateral triangle an intellectual quality but feeling sorrow from watching a tragedy a sensory quality?

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    10. @Cogniblog,


      Because "equilateral triangle" is an abstract concept, and as such is immaterial. The intellect grasps and possesses these concepts and as such it is immaterial. Your eyes can see an equilateral triangle, but they can't see equilateral triangularity as such.

      Feeling sorrow, on the other hand, clearly involves no conceptual thinking and is something that happens to the body and is thus essentially sensed by the senses, not abstracted.

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    11. @Cogniblog,


      All angels belong to the same genus, namely that of "intellectual / personal being". But they all differ from each other in species.

      All humans are of the same species because they have matter. Just as all cats are of the same species "cat" because of their matter. But angles don't have matter, so the difference between each angel is not the difference between one and another human or one and another cat, but like the difference between camels and lions, for example.

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  3. Traditional theists have a hard time being presentists however.

    Since God is not really related to creation, there is nothing intrinsic to God which corresponds to his knowledge of the future. Therefore, his knowledge of the future requires that the future actually exist. But if the future exists, presentism is false.

    One could avoid this by saying that God is really related to creation. But this is extremely difficult to square with divine simplicity

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    Replies
    1. I don't know what a "traditional theist" is but a Classic Theist believes in divine providence so God knows the future because He is the cause of it. The future exists in the divine mind from all eternity before God creates it & Time. See that is not hard.

      >Since God is not really related to creation,

      Really? Have you not done the reading or learned the difference between Theistic Personalism, Mechanistic Deism vs Classic Theism? Evidently not......

      God has a relation to creation in that God continuously causes it to exist and have being. If God did not do this then things would cease to exist. I suspect you believe in a concept EVERY Classic Theist and Thomist rejects called "Existential Inertia". The belief that God merely causes things to self exist and once He does that the thing in question will exist on it's own apart from him.

      Yeh we don't believe that. It incoherent.

      >there is nothing intrinsic to God which corresponds to his knowledge of the future. Therefore, his knowledge of the future requires that the future actually exist. But if the future exists, presentism is false.

      Why can' t the future exist in the divine foreknowledge in the divine mind from all eternity? Oops!

      >One could avoid this by saying that God is really related to creation.

      Well He does cause it and existential inertia is bugger all.

      >But this is extremely difficult to square with divine simplicity

      I don't see how God causing the universe to exist from moment to moment causes God to have physical parts or passive potencies in His Divine nature made actual?

      The divine simplicity is after all the belief God contains no real physical or metaphysical distinction in the divine essence.

      You need to hit the books otherwise you will not be critiquing the God we actually believe in here. Only the one you wish we believed in.

      That is simply bad form. Now hit the books.

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    2. @Son

      Your reply is hardly fair, saying to "hit the books" when I can assure you, I have studied these issues plenty. Next time, a more charitable read would be appreciated. In any case,

      (1) You say that God knows the future because he causes it and it exists in the divine mind from all of eternity.

      First of all, not all classical theists believe that God knows the future by causing it, or at least they would seriously qualify this statement. As you know, Molinists would qualify that statement (since God knows the future by what he causes and by what counterfactuals he knows). Those who accept a simple foreknowledge view of divine knowledge because of commitments to a more robust version of libertarian free will would deny that God knows the future by knowing his causality. Although neither of these are Thomistic, both are well within the scope of classical theism.

      My second issue is with "in the divine mind." If God is simple, then everything within the divine mind is identical with God. But if God's knowledge of the future is in the divine mind, then it is identical with God. But if God's knowledge of the future is identical with God, then it is a necessary being. This collapses modal distinctions and contradicts divine freedom. It is for similar reasons that many classical theists have denied that God is really related to creation.

      (2) You say that "God has a relation to creation." I agree but it is not a real relation, it is a merely logical/verbal one. Aquinas argues this at length in number of different spots including De Potentia chapter 8 and Summa Contra Gentiles Book 2 chapters 10-15. This is hardly something that only Aquinas believed as many contemporary philosophers have argued the same thing today as have many Thomists throughout history.

      You can of course object to the view that God is not really related to creatures. But don't act like I "haven't done reading" or I am not "critiquing the God we actually believe in" when I am in fact discussing a standard Thomist position.

      (3) God causing the universe to exist from moment to moment does not by itself entail that God has parts or potencies. God having a real relation to creation would. As Aquinas argues, if God has a real relation to creation it is either essential to God or accidental to him. But divine simplicity is incompatible with the relation being an accident in God since accidents imply composition. The real relation cannot be essential to God because that is incompatible with divine freedom (and therefore aseity). I would add to Aquinas's point that this would also imply modal collapse.

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    3. What do you mean exactly by God not having a relation to creation? What kind of "relation" do you mean?

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    4. >Your reply is hardly fair, saying to "hit the books" when I can assure you, I have studied these issues plenty. Next time, a more charitable read would be appreciated.

      I am very skeptical of that & it is not shameful to increase your knowledge. Pretending you know everything and never needing correction is more a source of shame. I don't accuse you of this (yet) but let us see how this unfolds.

      >First of all, not all classical theists believe that God knows the future by causing it, or at least they would seriously qualify this statement.

      I wouldn't mind that but of course it still answers your impicit claim the future is something that happens independent of God and is something He observes when Prof Feser has gone out of his way to explain Divine Knowledge is NOT "a kind of observation by which God learns what is happening in the world. That is not what it is at all, and God doesn't "learn" anything, not successively and not even in a single timeless act."

      You seem to think it is exactly that. Otherwise your objection doesn't make a lick of sense.

      >As you know, Molinists would qualify that statement

      Not every Molinist is a Classic Theist. William Lane Craig is a Molinist but he is not a Classic Theist. I wonder if you realize that?

      > (since God knows the future by what he causes and by what counterfactuals he knows). Those who accept a simple foreknowledge view of divine knowledge because of commitments to a more robust version of libertarian free will would deny that God knows the future by knowing his causality.

      Well I am an ex-Molinist.

      But such Molinists (like Craig and other Neo-theists) are not Classic Theists or Catholic Scholastics.


      >Although neither of these are Thomistic, both are well within the scope of classical theism.

      Then you are equivocating on the definition of a "Classic Theist". One can tell by your use of the buzz word "Traditional" Theist.

      >My second issue is with "in the divine mind." If God is simple, then everything within the divine mind is identical with God.

      Only in the notional sense. God's essence is idential to His Being and that must be understood using Negative Theology. My spider senses you are not doing that. I could be wrong...but...

      >But if God's knowledge of the future is in the divine mind, then it is identical with God. But if God's knowledge of the future is identical with God, then it is a necessary being.

      Rather God's will is necessary and Free Will for God means nothing within God or outside Him compels his Will other then Him Willing it. The choices he might make are notionally prior to Him willing it but not literally so since God choices are not in Time but from eternity.
      God knows all things that are potential and God knows what potentials will be made actual in the course of events by His will.

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    5. part II


      >This collapses modal distinctions and contradicts divine freedom.

      I don't see what Modal distinctions have to do with scholasticism?

      Free Will for God means no composition in God or anything external to God moves his Will but Him alone. Also I can freely within time choose X or Not X but I cannot choose both at the same time and in the same sense.

      God can from all eternity will X or Not X and nothing but His will chooses either or compels him to choose either (leaving out the role his Intellect plays in being prior to will but even it is only notionaly distinct from His Will thought prior).

      >It is for similar reasons that many classical theists have denied that God is really related to creation.

      I am skeptical you and I have the same definition of Classic Theist. But it is self evident you mean something else then what we mean here.

      >You say that "God has a relation to creation." I agree but it is not a real relation, it is a merely logical/verbal one.

      Rather it is a real causal relation. Within the Godhead the only real relations are the divine persons.

      You didn't specify what you meant by really related to his creation so I did my best. Thanks for clarifying what you meant.

      >You can of course object to the view that God is not really related to creatures.

      Perhaps you need to use more precise terms?

      > But don't act like I "haven't done reading" or I am not "critiquing the God we actually believe in"

      Why not? It is self evident to me you are doing that or you have a different objection and you need to spell it out more clearly(like Free Will and Classic Theism).

      > when I am in fact discussing a standard Thomist position.

      I am not seeing that since you are using modern philosophical terms to discuss free will and not Thomistic ones. So there may be some category mistakes here? Don't get offended if I presume to correct you. You can deny you are making a real error but I have every right to correct you and you me.

      Heck some guy accused me of Nestorianism when I said God cannot ride a bike so I qualified it by saying the Divine Nature cannot ride a bike.

      I didn't complain. I explained myself.

      Anyway Libertarian Free Will is for Mechanists not Thomists or Scholastics of any strip IMHO.

      >(3) God causing the universe to exist from moment to moment does not by itself entail that God has parts or potencies.

      We agree.

      >God having a real relation to creation would. As Aquinas argues, if God has a real relation to creation it is either essential to God or accidental to him. But divine simplicity is incompatible with the relation being an accident in God since accidents imply composition.

      Agreed but then again you where ambigious.

      Anyway God via His Divine Providence (Did you read Lagrange on this? Then you would have had your answer) wills from all eternity that the Universe should unfold the way it does so I don't get how God doesn't know His own Will or how God doesn't know the Future He causes because He knew it from eternity?

      So I don't see how you are objecting to Classic Theism. Maybe your objection more neatly fits when applied to a Theistic Personalist view of deity?

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    6. >What do you mean exactly by God not having a relation to creation? What kind of "relation" do you mean?

      Well said Unknown. He did not specify that. But perhaps I should give him more credit then I have for his knowledge of Thomism? I can do that.

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    7. @Son,

      I will divide my response into two comments for ease of reference

      (1)You ought to try to read my comments more charitably. To keep insisting that I have not read on the issue, etc. is a red herring. Try and just follow the discussion without making assumptions about how this conversation will unfold.

      (2)Regarding terms: I should have been clearer in my first post and used the term “classical theist” instead of “traditional theist,” as classical theist is what I meant. Regardless, I do not know why you keep going back to this issue as if it is something substantive. I think we are working with the same understanding of classical theist. Why would you say otherwise? Why did you say that it is “self-evident” that we are not using the same definition? And finally, why would you accuse me of equivocating on “classical theist”?

      (3)Regarding which views fall under classical theism: First of all, what in my comments indicates that I think all Molinists are classical theists? I never said such a thing. I said that Molinism and simple foreknowledge are views within the scope of classical theism, in other words, there is nothing within classical theism per se which directly rules these two views out. To say otherwise would be to adopt a very idiosyncratic definition of classical theism which essentially equates it with Thomism.

      (4) You ask me to define real relations etc. The basic idea here is that two things are related when a property of one refers to the other. For instance, to say that God creates the world is to imply a relation between God and the world, namely the relation of cause to effect. This relation is a real one if there is something intrinsic to God which grounds this relation, and thus would not exist had the relation not held (or would cease to exist if the relation ceased to exist). Otherwise, the relation is merely “logical” (or verbal, notional, and rational).

      (This is my brief summary of what I mean by these terms, but it is on the cuff and I do not claim it is precisely what this or that philosopher means by the terms. For further pursuit of this topic, I recommend Mark Henniger’s Relations: Medieval Theories. I am not claiming to represent his views on the matter either).

      I would like to pursue this point though. You repeatedly have given me a hard time for not defining what I meant. Maybe you aren’t aware, but the view that God is not really related to creation is a standard Thomist view, albeit understood differently by different Thomists over the years. For me to reference a technical Thomistic thesis, and then you to act like you are simply unfamiliar with it, but then to accuse me of not doing my homework is just unfair. On top of that, acting like somehow I am being ambiguous is not really fair either. If you don’t know about the doctrine, then fine, I am happy to clarify. If you do know about it but would like me to clarify further since different people put different spins on the doctrine, I am fine with that too.

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    8. Now back to my original argument:

      (5)If God’s knowledge of the future is something intrinsic to God, then according to divine simplicity it is identical with God. But God is a necessary being. Therefore, if God’s knowledge of the future is something intrinsic to God, then divine simplicity implies that it too is a necessary being. And if God’s knowledge of the future is a necessary being, then there is only one way in which the future can be. This is incompatible with the real contingency of the future and the freedom of God (as Aquinas understood it at least). That is my argument. Now, I will attempt to clarify some points in what follows:

      (6)You say that my argument “does not make a lick of sense” if God’s knowledge is causal rather than observational. But note that nowhere in the above do I use as a premise “God’s knowledge is observational.” The argument works for those classical theists who take all of God’s knowledge of the world to be causal (i.e. Thomists) as well as others.

      (7)You say that my claim, viz. “if God is simple then everything in the divine mind is identical with God” is true only in the “notional sense.” You have it backwards. The distinction between God and that which is intrinsic to him is notional, the reality is that they are identical.

      (8)Lastly, regarding divine freedom: I take it that if the future (or anything in creation) exists necessarily, then God is not free. On my reading of Aquinas and most Thomists, this is the case since Aquinas says that God could really have done otherwise. If you accept this understanding of divine freedom, then my argument in #5 should apply to you. If you deny that this is an appropriate understanding of divine freedom, then so be it. I would concede that there are other views of divine freedom within the scope of classical theism (e.g. Anselm does not necessarily embrace this understanding, he seems to think that it is sufficient for divine freedom that God’s will is a se). So your claim that I am not working with the correct understanding of divine freedom is either false or irrelevant.

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    9. Tom

      Well I hope you will try in the future to use more precise terms as I am quick with my trigger finger. That is just the way I am. Don't take it personally.

      "God is not really related to creation" is ambiguous in terms of your use & I did the best I could with your "argument" but it is clear it suffered from a major lack of clarity. I am already aware of the real, notional and logic relations theory of Aquinas as I have discussed it in the distant past with others while arguing about the Trinity. But that was about 7 years ago.

      > God is not really related to creation is a standard Thomist view.

      Aquinas said "ST 1, q. 45, a. 3 reply to objection one .

      Creation signified actively means the divine action, which is God's essence, with a relation to the creature. But in God relation to the creature is not a real relation, but only a relation of reason; whereas the relation of the creature to God is a real relation, as was said above (I:13:7) in treating of the divine names.

      So some real relation does exist but it is just one way which I firmly believe. Sort of like the analogy used by Aquinas. A statue of a Man resembles the Man but the Man doesn't really resemble the statue.

      >For me to reference a technical Thomistic thesis, and then you to act like you are simply unfamiliar with it, but then to accuse me of not doing my homework is just unfair.

      I accept your rebuke.

      > On top of that, acting like somehow I am being ambiguous is not really fair either. If you don’t know about the doctrine, then fine, I am happy to clarify. If you do know about it but would like me to clarify further since different people put different spins on the doctrine, I am fine with that too.

      Good I look forward to that.

      End of Part I

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    10. Part II
      >Now back to my original argument:

      >(5)If God’s knowledge of the future is something intrinsic to God, then according to divine simplicity it is identical with God. But God is a necessary being.

      I don't fancy the words "a necessary being" as they sound too much like Theistic Personalism. That God is "a being" goes against all that I learned from reading Feser and Davies and other Classic Theists. God is Being Itself(or Beyond Being if you look to the Eastern Fathers) but God is not "a being" or as Bill Vallicella once put it in his critique of Russell's Tea Pot, God is not an isolani. A single thing among a group of other things.

      God is necessary being itself is a better description. So already we don't agree on the proper language or terms or concepts I believe. Thus we will do a lot of talking past each other.

      >Therefore, if God’s knowledge of the future is something intrinsic to God, then divine simplicity implies that it too is a necessary being. Therefore, if God’s knowledge of the future is something intrinsic to God, then divine simplicity implies that it too is a necessary being. And if God’s knowledge of the future is a necessary being, then there is only one way in which the future can be.

      Rather the future God wills to happen is necessary because what God wills to happen by necessity must happen. Since God's will is immutable if God from all eternity wills X then X must come to pass since God has willed it and God cannot then will Not X. God's freedom means nothing external compels God to will X other than Him willing it. God could have willed Not X from all eternity & is free to have done so. Any other type of "free will" associated with God is an unequivocal anthropomorphism and no Classic Theist will be having that.

      >Therefore, if God’s knowledge of the future is something intrinsic to God, then divine simplicity implies that it too is a necessary being.

      How is the Knowledge of the Future unequivocally identical to the actual future that will come to pass? It isn't. God's eternal idea of the things He creates are not unequivocally the same as those things.

      Also as I mentioned I am no longer a Molinist & I lean more toward Banez these days. God wills it by His Divine Providence and is the cause of the future and wills the world should unfold as He wills it. He doesn't foresee it as if it has some existence distinct from his causality of it.

      >And if God’s knowledge of the future is a necessary being, then there is only one way in which the future can be.

      There is no reason why God cannot know several maybe infinite potential futures and from all eternity & choose only one of them to come to pass (I am leaving out how He wills contingent things to happen contingently being a transcendent cause of causes & necessary things to happen by necessity or causing me to will freely and being the cause of my choices being free ones). I think the later concept of "Libertarian Free Will" is based on other incompatible premises to scholaticism. I prefer the classics. I don't believe in "Libertarian Free will" I am a concurrentist on free will.

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    11. Part III
      >This is incompatible with the real contingency of the future and the freedom of God (as Aquinas understood it at least).

      Aquinas talks about God "causing things" and the future is as it is actual in the world a composite thing (i.e. made up of other things) and is not itself a simple thing with one simple operation so I do think there is some equivocation going on here and manyof my old objections are renewed.

      >You say that my argument “does not make a lick of sense” if God’s knowledge is causal rather than observational. But note that nowhere in the above do I use as a premise “God’s knowledge is observational.”

      But you originally said "Since God is not really related to creation, there is nothing intrinsic to God which corresponds to his knowledge of the future. Therefore, his knowledge of the future requires that the future actually exist. But if the future exists, presentism is false."

      So how does the future actually exist then if He is not observing it actually existing? How is his knowledge of a thing He will create unequivocally identical to the thing? When God causes the future to exist it will occur in the present it does not already exist outside the divine mind but it doesn't follow what God's knowledge of a thing He will cause is identical to the thing itself. It is his perfect idea of the thing but is distinct from the thing itself made actual. The thing itself is really related to the divine idea of the thing as it's transcendent cause but not the other way around,

      >The argument works for those classical theists who take all of God’s knowledge of the world to be causal (i.e. Thomists) as well as others.

      I am not seeing it & it's based on an idea of divine free will I reject.


      >You say that my claim, viz. “if God is simple then everything in the divine mind is identical with God” is true only in the “notional sense.” You have it backwards. The distinction between God and that which is intrinsic to him is notional, the reality is that they are identical.

      Except because of the divine incomprehensibility we don't know what the divine essence actually is in itself. So the statement is meaningless. We know that whatever is in the divine essence is God but we don't know what the divine essence really is in itself.

      We know that the divine essence and created essences are really distinct from each other.

      One wonders if you are imagining it is some unequivocal substance like other substances (only more uber because it's divine substance)? This offends my sense of negative theology and again smacks of Theistic Personalism.

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    12. PART IV
      >(8)Lastly, regarding divine freedom: I take it that if the future (or anything in creation) exists necessarily, then God is not free.

      The divine nature cannot ride a bike and if God wills X from all eternity obviously He is not "free" too will "not x" but only because that would be absurd. It is a trivial observation like saying God is not free to make 2+2=5.

      God's freedom means God could have willed Not X from all eternity and nothing internal or external to Him could compel him other then He wills it. But does it follow that I don't have free will just because I can't will in a contradictory manner? I can't choose X and not choose X at the same time and in the same relation. I can change my mind of course back and forth but I am not immutable. That God can't change his mind doesn't mean what God choose to do wasn't a free choice.

      >On my reading of Aquinas and most Thomists, this is the case since Aquinas says that God could really have done otherwise.

      Meaning God could have willed Not X from all eternity instead of willing X from all eternity since nothing external to God compels this eternal choice and no passive potency in God moves his will to choose one over the other.

      If God will X then why God wills X is a mystery we cannot in principle fathom.

      >If you accept this understanding of divine freedom, then my argument in #5 should apply to you.

      I don't see how?

      >If you deny that this is an appropriate understanding of divine freedom, then so be it. I would concede that there are other views of divine freedom within the scope of classical theism (e.g. Anselm does not necessarily embrace this understanding, he seems to think that it is sufficient for divine freedom that God’s will is a se). So your claim that I am not working with the correct understanding of divine freedom is either false or irrelevant.

      Well we will have to learn each other's language. But I was taught divine freedom merely means nothing outside of God willing something can move Him to will it. You cannot force God to do X. Thus God is clearly free.

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    13. PS I apologize Tom if I jumped the gun on you and I really apologize for the absurd length.

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    14. @Son,

      “I apologize if I jumped the gun…”
      Thank you, I accept your apology now we can just discuss the issue itself. My numbers in what follows do not correspond to my original numbers, to be clear.

      (1) Much of our discussion so far depends on our understanding of divine freedom. Within classical theism, at least within the Christian tradition, God necessarily loves himself. This necessity does not contradict freedom however and therefore we can say that God, by his free will, loves himself. Despite this necessity, God is free since, in your words “nothing outside God…can move him to will it.” I would even go a step further. Nothing within God forces him to love himself since there is nothing in God that is prior to his act of self-love. If divine simplicity is true and God is identical with his act of self-love, then it follows that nothing whatsoever (no metaphysical laws, no natures, no abstracta, no creatures, nothing) is prior to God’s self-love and therefore nothing even in theory could force God to love himself. To put it simply, God exists a se therefore God is free.

      (2) That said, God’s freedom pertaining to creation might be different. So I will distinguish between two possible views of God’s freedom pertaining to creation. First, is the Thomistic view. This was Aquinas’s view and the view of almost all of the Scholastics who followed him. On this view, while God’s self-love is free and necessary, God’s creation of the world is free and not necessary. In other words, God really could have created created a different world or no world at all. As you say “God could have willed not-X from all eternity instead of willing X.” Therefore, for Aquinas, the doctrine of divine freedom with respect to creation requires more than simply saying that nothing compels God (since this fact alone fails to distinguish between God’s free & necessary self-love but his free & contingent creation). It requires that we also affirm that God could have created a different world (but he could not have failed to love himself).


      Another view of divine freedom is the one that arguably was Anselm and Augustine’s view (although I am not going to get into an exegetical debate here, although there are scholars who affirm what I am about to say). This view of divine freedom essentially treats God’s freedom with respect to creation just like his freedom with respect to himself. Since God possesses aseity, he is free. We need not add the additional qualification that Thomists add. On this view, the good is necessarily diffusive and therefore God necessarily created this world, but this does not contradict freedom since nothing forces God to do it. The main problem with this position according to Thomists is that it entails that God has a real relation to creation and thus depends on it. Whether or not Thomists are correct in thinking this I will set aside for the moment.

      Now that this clarification is in order, I will return to the substance of my argument in the next comments

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    15. (3) For starters, you say “So some real relation does exist but it is just one way.” But I never denied that. I said that God is not really related to creation. Aquinas says as much in what you quote, and elsewhere. I never have said that this implies creatures are not really related to God. In any case:

      (4) I can accept the use of the term “necessary being itself” but could you clarify how this affects the substance of my argument? (BTW Aquinas himself uses the phrase “a necessary being” at times).

      (5) You say “Rather the future God wills to happen is necessary because what God wills to happen by necessity must happen. Since God's will is immutable if God from all eternity wills X then X must come to pass since God has willed it and God cannot then will Not X.” This describes the necessity of supposition. Stump uses this to defend how a simple God can be free. The problem is that this will not work since what is at issue is whether or not God wills what he wills necessarily, in an absolute sense, not by supposition.

      God’s existence is necessarily absolutely, not merely by supposition. Therefore, if God and his act of willing the future are identical, then they both exist necessarily in an absolute sense. But if God’s will that the future exists is absolutely necessary, then it follows that the future is not really contingent since what God wills necessarily comes to pass, as you say. Moreover, this contradicts the Thomistic view of divine freedom that I discuss in 2 since Aquinas affirms that God really could have created a different world or none at all.

      Notice that nothing in this argument depends on the claim that God knows the future by observation or that his knowledge of our choices is or is not causal.

      (6) One way out of this argument is to deny the Thomistic view of divine freedom and instead accept the Anselmian view. Is this what you are trying to do? If so, you do in fact escape the force of this particular argument. It is a tough pill to swallow though and I will leave that discussion for another time. Recall also that my original comment argues that classical theism is incompatible with presentism. And although the argument I presented does not address this Anselmian view of divine freedom, I think that view too is incompatible with presentism for other reasons which we can discuss if you wish. But I am not sure you want to accept this view of divine freedom, it certainly is not Thomistic

      (7) In any case, given my argument that I have used throughout and put to you again in 5, how do Thomists avoid saying that the future is necessary? One way is to deny that God is really related to creatures. In that way, Thomists can deny that God’s willing the future is identical to God since it isn’t intrinsic to God at all. First I should note that this isn’t the direct reason why Aquinas himself argues that God is not really related to creation. That said, I think his argument for the thesis is related (pardon the pun) to our discussion here. I should also note the exact way to construe the denial of real relations within God is a point of debate among Thomists. I could give you some interesting reads on this point if you are interested in pursuing that topic.

      Be that as it may, if there is nothing within God that corresponds to his willing the future, then God cannot know the future by knowing his own nature. In other words, God’s knowledge and will with regard to the future requires the existence of the future. These are words that Aquinas and many Thomists throughout history may be uncomfortable with, but it seems to me to be a clear implication of the doctrine that God is not really related to creatures. And that doctrine is necessary to preserve divine freedom and the contingency of the world. That said, it is not as though there are no Thomists who defend such a thought. I could also provide if you are interested some contemporary authors, Thomists, who defend such a view.

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    16. (8) You say “So how does the future actually exist then if He is not observing it actually existing? …When God causes the future to exist it will occur in the present it does not already exist outside the divine mind... The thing itself is really related to the divine idea of the thing as it's transcendent cause but not the other way around”

      The future exists because to say that “God wills that X exist” requires the existence of X, otherwise the statement is false. The reason is that there is nothing intrinsic to God which corresponds to God willing X exist, in other words, the fact that God wills that X exists is in part grounded by X itself. To say otherwise is to imply that a real relation to creation exists within God, something as I said, incompatible with a Thomistic understanding of divine freedom. To further push this point, when you say that the future does not exist outside of the divine mind, I am saying it can’t exist within the divine mind either since this implies a real relation to creation.

      (To be clear: the future as an exemplar cause does exist within the divine mind. But so do other possible futures as these are all simply reflections of the divine nature. So when I deny that the future exists in the divine mind, technically I am denying that God’s will that [this particular possible future in fact come to pass] is something within the divine mind).





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    17. Just to be clear, Lagrange was happy to accept the label 'theological determinist'.

      There is some difference between the scholastic view of free will and modern debates, but not too much. You still have the same compatibilist/libertarian divide except Thomistic libertarians stress source incompatibilism as the essence of freedom with PAP being a proper accident.

      There are a number of contemporary Thomists who are libertarian/incompatibilist like Timothy Pawl, Kevin Timpe, Eleonore Stump and Mark Spencer. Tobias Hoffman isnt a Thomist but works on medieval philosophy and has argued Aquinas is to be seen in this group as well.

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    18. Would you class yourself as a theological determinist Yakov?

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    19. Aristotle Jedi. I would say I tend these days to error to the right of Lagrange.

      @Tom . We might not agree here. Let me explore it.

      (1)Well God is Love Itself so how can Love Itself not Love Himself? That is like saying God who is Unconditional Existence Itself could choose not to exist. How can Existence coherently not exist? There is no real distinction between the Essence and Being of God so God is his one attributes. Sure nothing outside God forces him to love himself and no passive potency that become act in God moves Him to love Himself but His nature moves Him to love himself. So I disagree with your statement "Nothing within God forces him to love himself since there is nothing in God that is prior to his act of self-love." if you mean God doesn't possess the nature of being Love Itself and loves Himself based on some ill defined implicit volunteerist act.

      (2) God’s freedom pertaining to creation is different but I think many of your arguments if not most are non-starters because you are making unequivocal comparisons between God and his creatures. Not an analogous one. So it is possible responses 3 to 8 suffer from this oversight.

      Anyway I will respond more later as I am tired. Cheers.

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    20. @Yakov,

      (1) Whether or not we agree on this point I do not think is especially important since I merely put it here as a backdrop to discuss divine freedom pertaining to creation in #2.

      But I would disagree with this: "nothing outside God forces him to love himself and no passive potency that become act in God moves Him to love Himself but His nature moves Him to love himself." If divine simplicity is true, God's nature is not prior to his self love. From our perspective we can make a notional distinction between God's act of self love and his nature and say that the latter explains the former. However, we cannot make a real distinction like this.

      Moreover, you say "if you mean God doesn't possess the nature of being Love Itself and loves Himself based on some ill defined implicit volunteerist act."

      God does possess the nature of being love itself but this nature is not something which forces God to love himself. Rather it is identical with his self love.

      I think the volunteerist/intellectualist debate is difficult and at times misguided since in reality God's will and intellect are identical on classical theism. This is not my personal interpretation of classical theism. This is standard. Be that as it may, my exposition of divine freedom is not volunteerist because I denied that God could have done otherwise with respect to his self love.

      (2) When you say his freedom with respect to creation is different, are you endorsing what I call the "Thomistic" understanding? And I am interested in why you think my arguments are nonstarters or rely on univocal comparisons between God and his creatures.

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    21. @Tom

      I have been as sick a dog and I am still recovering.

      >If divine simplicity is true, God's nature is not prior to his self love.

      I don't see how? How can Love Itself not Love Itself? That makes no sense.

      >From our perspective we can make a notional distinction between God's act of self love and his nature and say that the latter explains the former. However, we cannot make a real distinction like this.

      I tentatively agree.

      >God does possess the nature of being love itself but this nature is not something which forces God to love himself. Rather it is identical with his self love.

      Logically it "forces" him but nothing external forces him no internal etc passive potency made actual etc....

      >I think the volunteerist/intellectualist debate is difficult and at times misguided since in reality God's will and intellect are identical on classical theism.

      But they are logically distinct otherwise God would forgive with His Wraith and condemn with His Mercy.

      >Be that as it may, my exposition of divine freedom is not volunteerist because I denied that God could have done otherwise with respect to his self love.

      I do too but I conclude it is logically absurd for Love Itself not to love itself.

      >When you say his freedom with respect to creation is different, are you endorsing what I call the "Thomistic" understanding? And I am interested in why you think my arguments are nonstarters or rely on univocal comparisons between God and his creatures.

      I will get back to you on that. I have very sick and I am only now getting my strength back.

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    22. @Yakov,

      If divine simplicity is true, God's nature is not prior to his self love because in reality they are identical. To say otherwise implies composition in God.

      I think we are pretty much on the same page when it comes to God's necessary, yet free, love of himself. I just want to emphasize that anything we say that implies a distinction within God is not literally true. Logical distinctions are simply distinctions in our mind, they are the product of the fact that we use multiple diverse concepts to capture a single reality. So they can be useful to an extent when reasoning about God, however we also have to be careful that we do not slip into thinking that the distinctions exist in God or we will run into trouble.

      All that said, God's freedom pertaining to himself isn't really the crux of the issue, what I say in #3-8 above and what you say rests on "nonstarters" regards God and his relationship to creation. If you are interested in continuing that discussion, I would be happy to.

      In any case, I hope you are feeling better soon!

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  4. Thanks, Ed, for the careful analysis and clear exposition.

    I wonder if you might not have committed a bit of a slip, perhaps merely verbal. You say: "Now, Alex is right that the Aristotelian grounds facts in existing substances and features of substances." But then you go on to say that the facts are grounded in what substances *did* exist. But that's different. Substances that merely *did* exist, like Alexander's horse Bucephalus, are not *existing* substances if presentism is true. They are literally non-existent.

    Consider three horses: Bucephalus, X and Gandalf's Shadowfax, where I shall suppose that X is a real horse that is now in the very first moment of its existence. Assume presentism. Then Bucephalus and Shadowfax are like one another in that neither exists, and they are both unlike X in that X exists. Now, admittedly, Bucephalus is unlike Shadowfax in that Bucaphalus *did* exist and Shadowfax *did not* exist. However, notice that in this respect Shadowfax is also like X: for X did not exist (it's the first moment of X's existence).

    The eternalist can say that Bucaphalus and X are similar insofar as they both really exist. The presentist cannot say that. It seems that the best that the presentist can say about what Bucephalus and X have in common, which that Shadowfax does not share, is that Bucephalus and X have the disjunctive property of either existing or having existed. But disjunctive properties tend not to be real aspects of similarity. (We don't want to say that St Michael is like a fish in that each is an-angel-or-a-fish. That's not a real similarity.)

    On presentism, the "did" or "will" in "did exist" or "will exist" functions like a modal operator, akin to "possibly" (or even "fictionally"). Something that merely did or will exist is something that doesn't exist, just as something that merely possibly exists is something that doesn't exist. To ground facts in substances that merely did or will exist is like grounding facts in substances that merely possibly exist: it's a departure from the insight, common to Plato and Aristotle, that all non-fundamental facts are grounded in facts about what exists.

    That said, I acknowledge that one could have a weaker version of the insight, one on which all non-fundamental facts are grounded in facts about what did, presently does, will or eternally exists. To me this sounds _ad hoc_. Why choose these particular modal operators to qualify existence with and no others?

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    1. However, notice that in this respect Shadowfax is also like X: for X did not exist (it's the first moment of X's existence).

      Just a technical note: Aristotle shows that under his categories / definitions, there is no "first" moment of movement, or of a being's existing. There is a _terminus_ of the motion or becoming, but the terminus belongs rather to the prior state, not to the motion. (Just as there is no first point on a line immediately next to the end-point.) And there is a first moment of rest, but no last moment of motion.

      While it is necessary to accept that Bucephalus does not exist, simply speaking, the referent to the word has a stronger relation to being than does either Shadowfax or the first foal to be descended from Secretariat that will be born in 2022 has. That is, the relation between the present and the past has a greater sort of reality than the relation between the present and the future, even though neither the past nor the future exist simply. In this respect, the statement "Bucephalus existed" has a different character than "the foal descended from Secretariat will exist" with respect to its truth.

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  5. Still, angels, like us, have to be created, and they can exhibit something analogous to change of a mental sort.

    Can someone please explain this further? I've been reading a fair bit in the Thomistic literature and I still have no clue what aeviternity is.

    Furthermore, this is actually important, as the eternity of heaven and hell depend on it. If mental change is possible for beings which exist only in an immaterial way, then why is change not possible in the afterlife, or for fallen angels?

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    1. Angels, after having been created, had to choose either to love God, or something other than God. Then their will is "fixed" to that decision. So they have changed to that extent at least. Ed Feser explains why they can't change in the blog post, "How to go to Hell." Aeviternity, as I understand it, is an existence that is created, so has a beginning point, but will continue to exist forever. So, humans & angels.

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    2. I've already read Feser's blog posts on hell, thanks. Your response is pretty unhelpful. I don't think you understand aeviternity enough to explain it.

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  6. I am really enjoying reading these posts on this subject.It would be interesting to see where this discussion ends up.

    I think Dr. Pruss has already pointed out why this particular solution is unsatisfactory . It appears saying The fact that something did exist is sufficient just amounts to denying truth-maker principle or that truth supervenes on being. It is basically saying that some truths are made true by non-existent beings.

    It would be interesting to know what Dr.Feser think about other solutions which appeal to uninstantiated haecceities or Which take present to instantiate such primitive properties that make true such and such existent in the past.

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  7. Ed Feser and Alex Pruss.

    Godzilla and king Ghidora.

    Tolkien and C.S Lewis.

    Incredible Hulk and Red Hulk.


    What's the underlying pattern there?

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    1. I know, I know!!!

      The first member of each pair has a reputation for getting crotchety, and then waking up the next morning in a pair of overly-tight, ripped-edge cutoffs, and no shirt.

      Right?

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  8. I'm in the middle of this part of Aristotle's Revenge at the moment actually! So the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, being a "re-presentation" of Christ's Sacrifice, doesn't imply one of the other views of time? From my previous reading of Summa Theologica, St Thomas seems to think that it is Christ as he currently is that is made present. So if the apostles had Mass while Christ was dead in the tomb, the "wine" would be just blood & the "bread" be just flesh, unlike both being present in each like what normally happens.

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  9. Do the Saints in Heaven exist also outside time as God does - and are they as sempiternal as God - and do they thus exist before they exist on Earth?

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    1. Please see "aeviternal". They are not eternal.

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  10. It is about time that you wrote this post!

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  11. Well, I am generally sympathetic with Aristotelian(-Thomistic) philosophical worldview, but I have some difficulties with this presentist theory of time. I apologize if this is discussed in the Aristotle's revenge; I have obtained my copy but haven't read it yet.

    1. Multiplicity of changes vs unity of time.
    There are many changes in this world, but time is, according to common understanding, one. If time somehow "piggybacks" on change, why doesn't each change generate its own time? And how do we explain that some of these changes are simultaneous, while some of them appear earlier or later? This is all easy to understand if time is more fundamental reality, existing on its own, independently of change. But not so if it is the other way around (or so it seems to me).

    2. Explaining direction of time.
    How do we explain the direction of time on presentist view? I mean, the fact that some moments are earlier and others are later? OK, you can say, change is actualization of the potential, so the time it generates goes from the moment where some potentiality is not yet actualized (this would be the earlier moment) to the one when it is actualized (later moment). But actualizing one potentiality generally means that some actuality also becomes potential. For example, when I am actually sitting, I am potentially standing, but when I am actually standing, I am potentially sitting. Now let's say that I am first sitting and then I stand up. One potentiality becomes actual, but at the same time other actuality becomes potential. So, on presentist view, if we don't have time as a fundamental reality existing on its own, how do we distinguish the change from potentially standing to actually standing from potentially sitting to actually sitting, if we don't already know that one of those situations is earlier and the other is later?

    3. Explaining speed of change.
    We know from observation that some changes are faster (like a bullet being fired from a gun and hitting a target) while others are slower (like a snail moving on the ground and traveling the same distance as the bullet from the previous example). Now if time is fundamental reality on its own, this is easy to understand - you have "starting condition" and "final condition" of something (bullet or snail or whatever) and by nature of the process they are set apart by a certain amount of time. However, if change itself is more fundamental, in both cases you have "starting condition" that transforms by change into the "final condition", but it remains unexplained why it "generates longer time" in the second case than in the first one.

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    1. I'd like to try to tackle #2...

      If you stand up from a seated position, you are not potentially then seated in the same exact way and time as you were seated before.

      I sat down to watch most of Superbowl XXX - go Cowboys! But I no longer have the potential to be seated to watch Superbowl XXX, though I can be seated in many other manners.

      Potentials might be similar, but it's hard for me to imagine a practical situation where they are ever indistinguishable, especially at such a macro level as a human being taking a seat. You'd have to get to the quantum level to make a better argument, and there I am not qualified to give an answer, but suspect it is the same.

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  12. The problem with Eternalism vs Presentism is many people use that argument as a subtitute for Parmenides vs Aristotle and the concepts themselves are IMHO ill defined.

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    1. This is somewhat correct, due to similar concerns many philosophers propose Eternalism vs Presentism to be replaced by Permanentism vs Temporaryism and that is a controversial proposal too. On the other hand many have tried to offer more substantial theorizing of the traditional terms.

      All this being said, I don't think its correct to conflate Eternalism with Parmenides view or something like that. On that view there is absolutely no change at all not even mere temporal variation or succession of some states. Eternalism of course is different from that though there is some reason to think that Eternalism with conjunction of certain other metaphysical views which eternalists might accept entails Parmenides view ( see Michael Rea's "How to be an eleatic monist").

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    2. Red

      A while back I had an epic argument with an idiot Atheist who seemed to think the following 1) Special Relativity "proves" Eternalism & 2) Eternalism disproves the Act/ Potency distinction.

      (The problems there are obvious)

      If there are versions of Eternalism that accept the act potency distinction I might be interested if you know any.

      Cheers.

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    3. @Son of Ya'Kov

      Are you the user who used to post under the name "Ben Yachov" or something like that?

      And well I don't know of any version of Eternalism that is fully compatible with act/potency from what I understand.
      At the most I think maybe some sort of Eternalist A-theory like Moving Spotlight or What is called Fragmentalism could have some sort of actualization of potential in it.
      Though these sort of theories are very hard to understand and motivate.

      As for the above claims 1 and 2, I used to think the same but now I am not so sure.
      Thing is, even if special relativity proves such a thing it wouldn't immediately follow that it is true. Actual Physical theory here might be reviseable as William Lane Craig has pointed out, maybe he is wrong but that needs to be argued separately.
      We need to first think about whether Eternalism is coherent view at all or whether Presentism has some other positive consideration in its favor or not. Or even how such views should be defined or formulated in the first place. What exactly Presentists and Eternalist disagree on?

      We need to inquire about all these issues before we let Relativity issue final verdict on the issue, otherwise we are committed to blatant unmotivated scientism.

      Similarly if Eternalism disproves act/potency then we have to look at what motivates act/potency. If we have better reason to believe in act/potency then what would actually follow that act/potency disproves Eternalism.

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    4. I am BenYachov.

      I agree much of the argument surounding Eternalism vs Presentism contains blatant scientism.

      Cheers.

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  13. I’m actually quite amazed by how so many people find presentism to be controversial. It should be the default position, and Ed’s defense of it is spot on. It shouldn’t be so difficult to understand that what existed 1000 years ago doesn’t exist anymore. Sometimes too much philosophy can be too much.

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    1. I agree with this, and despite my revisiting of my own reasoning, and reading an ever-growing population of papers defending the B-theory of time, still cannot find any B-theorist or Eternalist explaining how we perceive the present to be "merely an illusion".

      In order to create the illusion of the present being the only extant reality, something must move relative to something else. But nothing but hand-waving from the B-theory crowd, including their made-for-television provocative exposes.

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    2. It's controversial (and a minority position amongst philosophers) because it is prima facie incompatible with Einstein's relativity - one of the most rigorously verified theories in physics.

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  14. How does change occur if time doesn't exist? How does the banana's potential to be brown become actualised if time doesn't pass, and therefore exist? The banana exists within time, and that allows the sequence of changes to occur.

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    1. If a banana is the only thing that exists, and there is no light source, how is it green, yellow, or brown???


      Analogies can only go so far.

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    2. I think that the banana's changes occur if, and only if, the changes in the banana's color are actualized by other parts of the banana (there being nothing outside the banana to actualize them).

      So you'd have to have a banana whose color is determined by some internal process, rather than sensitivity to light emitted by a (non-existent) light-source.

      And, so long as the changes in the banana happened, then "time" would have passed (according to Ed's view). But it wouldn't be measured in minutes, but in some other unit relevant to the changes in the banana. (Maybe "colors" and shades" would be "ticking by" rather than "minutes and seconds." Or perhaps they'd say "shading by," rather than "ticking.")

      The only way the passage of time in such a system would be measured in "minutes and seconds" is if two things existed in this world...say, a banana and an oscillating cesium-133 atom (at rest, at absolute zero).

      In that case, every time 9,192,631,770 oscillations happened, a "second" would have passed (which is the same way it works in the real world).

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    3. But just having a banana means that we have molecular clocks, just because the molecules that make the banana oscillate just like cesium -- they are just not as standardized in their oscillation as the cesium atom is for current clock tech. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_vibration#Vibrations_of_a_methylene_group_(-CH2-)_in_a_molecule_for_illustration. So for an ordinary banana to exist, time must exist, unless the banana is in absolute darkness at absolute zero-- and in that case it has no color that can be measured!

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    4. William,

      You're right. That detail slipped past me.

      Actually, I suspect a bunch of things slip past me, on this topic, but that's why it's dangerous to base one's Aristotelian analysis on bananas.

      Ba-dum-bump!

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  15. Hi Alex,

    Yes, as your last paragraph suggests, I would take the thesis that all facts are grounded in what exists to be shorthand for saying that all facts are grounded in what presently exists, what did exist, what will exist, what eternally exists, or what aeviternally exists.

    However, I do not think this is in any way ad hoc. On the contrary, it reflects the metaphysical fact that there are three modes of existence, viz. the eternal, the aeviternal, and the temporal. We have to state the "grounding" thesis in something like the way in question in order to capture this plurality in ways of being.

    I would also reject the comparison to what possibly exists. What merely possibly exists does not exist and never did. What no longer exists at least did in fact exist. The difference makes all the difference in the world, as is evident from the fact that a bullet that no longer exists can leave a wound or a corpse behind, whereas a bullet that merely possibly exists cannot. It seems to me to be straining things considerably to pretend that the merely possible and the no longer existing are both somehow equally outside the realm of the real.

    Furthermore, I would not favor cashing out claims about past and future in terms of an operator comparable to a modal operator. Indeed, the tendency to try to capture ontology in terms of modern formal logic is part of the problem. As John Bigelow has pointed out (in work I cite in the book), the "timeless" character that statements about temporal phenomena take on when couched in the language of formal logic and mathematics has contributed to the illusion (as we presentists see it) that the past and future are no less real than the present. We tend to read this "timeless" character of the formal mode of representation into the thing represented.

    (In general, I think that systems of formal logic are often less metaphysically neutral than people often suppose. Aristotelians like Henry Veatch used to emphasize this point, and Mumford and Anjum have pressed it recently in their new book What Tends to Be.)

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  16. Ed:

    "What no longer exists at least did in fact exist. The difference makes all the difference in the world, as is evident from the fact that a bullet that no longer exists can leave a wound or a corpse behind, whereas a bullet that merely possibly exists cannot."

    I think this may beg the question. I fully agree that what did exist can leave an effect behind. But I think the reason it can leave an effect behind is because it really exists.

    Regarding modal operators, it seems hard to deny that on presentism the English phrase "It was the case that" behaves like a modal operator. It modifies a sentence, just as modal operators do. It is stronger than "It is possible that" and weaker than "It is necessary that".

    Here is a puzzle. On your view, as I read it, there are at least five ways to be real: past temporal existence, present temporal existence, future temporal existence, aeviternal existence and eternal existence. For past and future things are real in a way in which imaginary and merely possible things are not.

    (Perhaps you want to divide the aeviternal existence into past aeviternal existence, present aeviternal exitence and future aeviternal existence? Let's leave that complication merely parenthetical.)

    But of these five ways to be real, you think only three are ways of *existing*: present temporal existence, aeviternal existence and eternal existence. Why is that these three ways to be real are ways of existing, while the other two ways to be real, namely past temporal existence and future temporal existence, are not ways of existing?

    It seems less ad hoc to say that all five ways to be real are ways to exist. Insofar as this view would maintain that past existence, present existence and future existence are all ways of existing, it would be an eternalist view. But it also would be staunchly A-theoretic, in that the B-theorist is committed to deny that past existence and present existence and future existence are different ways of existing.

    (That said, I prefer a full B-theory, and not just eternalism.)

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  17. Okay, Dr. Feser (or anyone else kind enough to help),

    Just now I was trying to reply to someone else's comment by referencing 9,192,631,770 oscillations of a cesium-133 atom being the changes that count as passage-of-seconds, in a universe which contained only the single cesium-133 atom, plus your gradually-browning banana.

    But then I wondered if I was out-of-my-depth, because I realized I can't answer the following question:

    In a universe containing only a single cesium-133 atom, it is the atom's oscillations between energy states which allow time to be passing (because they represent changes).

    But on Aristotelianism, change just is the actualization of potentials in Thing X caused by Thing Y, where Thing Y is...
    (a.) not Thing X; and,
    (b.) already actual.

    And, in Aristotle's Revenge, you respond to Zeno-style paradoxes by saying that, until a thing is actually divided up into its subordinate parts, the parts are only potential, not actual. For so long as they exist in the larger substance, they're not really there, it is. (And thus there are no actual infinities implied by their potentially-infinite subdivisibility, contra Zeno.)

    (I hope I'm getting that right. This trying-to-think-like-an-Aristotelian schtick is all kinda new to me.)

    Anyway, if...
    - the parts (electrons and protons and neutrons, I guess) of the cesium-133 atom are there only potentially, not actually; and,
    - if the single cesium-133 atom is the only thing in a hypothetical universe;
    ...then how can it ever change? How could it possibly sit there, oscillating all by itself? There is nothing outside it to actualize change in it. And any subordinate parts inside itself are merely potential, not actual. But if part X and part Y inside the atom are only potentially there, not actually, how can a merely-potential part Y actualize any kind of change in part X, thereby causing the change between energy-states?

    I'm either misunderstanding your answer to the Zeno paradoxes, or failing to see how Aristotelianism provides the X and the Y for quantum-level change-events to happen...or, both.

    Help...?

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    1. As I understand it, there does have to be an actualizing outside instance only in the sense of natural laws. The atom merely behaves the way it is programmed to. Each oscillation depends on a causal chain. In that hypothetical universe, God would exist just as He does in any hypothetical universe. He is the actualizing actus.

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  18. Feser writes, "While the banana is still yellow, though, does the future, brown state of the banana exist? Of course not, because the brownness is at this point still in the banana only potentially, not actually."

    To an eternalist, the "because" here just seems like a non sequitur.

    The unspoken premise seems to be that there is a contradiction between the following statements:

    (1) The banana eternally-is potentially brown at time t1.

    (2) The banana eternally-is actually brown at time t2.

    But on a "spacializing" view of time, this is perfectly coherent. After all, in one moment of time, the same banana can be actually brown on one of its ends while being merely potentially brown at the other end. So why can't the banana eternally-be actually brown at its "t2 part" while eternally-being merely potentially brown at its "t1 part"?

    I understand that Feser rejects any conception of time that smacks of "spacialization". My point is only that, as an objection to such views, this example begs the question.

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    1. It doesn't seem like Feser is raising objection against eternalism in the part you quote, merely giving the picture of time he accepts.

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  19. In the world with only a banana, when it ripens, how would you be able to tell the difference between it ripening in 10 seconds or 100,000,000 years?

    I don't understand the notion of time being equated with change. How does anything take more or less time if time is not an independent measurement? This seems like an inversion of the typical way of thinking of time where change requires time, instead of time requiring change. I'm not saying that makes it wrong of necessity, but I just don't fully see it.

    Going back to the banana... it seems tempting to say that the amount of time that passes is measured by relating how many changes of one type occur while a given number of changes of another type occur. But that seems problematic on a number of levels.

    -Noob

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    1. Though I may be also a noob, it would appear you are also making the issue of making abstractions concrete. Our measure of time vs what time actually is. A clock that counts seconds is actually following the mechanism within the clock.
      So, the fact the banana is the only thing in this world means there is no measure of seconds or minutes or years.

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  20. If time is change then you are forced to acc3pt presentism. Change presupposes so.ething that is not becoming something that is, and something that formerly was into something that is not. So eternalists have to argue that time isn't really change.

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    1. Why is the conversation only about presentism vs eternalism? Are the other options not seriously considered by philosophers?

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    2. The other option seriously considered is growing block.

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    3. Growing block seems to make the most sense to me (I haven't read "Aristotle's Revenge" yet so I haven't read the arguments, if any, Dr. Feser, has against it). It appears to take both relativity (I know there is a chapter in "Aristotle's Revenge" that addresses Presentism and relativity so I reserve judgement on whether relativity disproves presentism) and QM seriously. I am an amateur with this stuff, but on an eternalist view, wouldn't wavefunction collapses (using Copenhagen interpretation here) already exists so the future is set, in existence, and cannot change. However, on growing block, there have been no wavefunction collapse yet because measurements have yet to occur. My apologies if I am butchering the interpretations of eternalism and/or QM here, but based on my very limited knowledge of this subject, I have trouble believing the collapsed wavefunctions already exist.

      That comes to my key problem with eternalism in that it seems to result in super-determinism. Metaphorically, we are all 4-D worms stuck in a frozen block. That means no change (the 4-D worm is set) and no freedom (many people are strict determinists so I guess that wouldn't be a problem). That just doesn't seem right to me.

      Of course, as I have said before, I am an amateur at this so maybe we all are 4-D worms stuck in a block of space-time and there really is no change. I would like to know Dr. Pruss's thoughts on this since he is an eternalist.

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    4. I personally can see how Presentism is perfectly compatible with relativity.

      With the growing block, if I understand it correctly, the past would still exist as real as the present.

      But that doesn't make sense to me because as we speak, I'm not observing both the now as well as observing myself eating breakfast this morning. My awareness travels only in the present it seems. Which strongly suggests Presentism to me.

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    5. I think it's quite obvious why a classical theist should not be a presentist.
      If it is true that something exists only when it is actively sustained by God, then if the past doesn't exist (anymore), that means that God doesn't sustain an event/object now that he did sustain in the past.
      But if God can start doing something at t1 and stop doing something at t2, He obviously isn't timeless. Not would He be immutable for that matter.

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    6. God is no longer sustaining Julius Caesar as a living human being. The atoms that Julius Caesar was made from are still being sustained, they're just in the form of something else now. I'm not sure that on Presentism, that God has stopped sustaining anything, really.

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    7. Unknown

      It may be true that Ceasar's atoms are still being sustained, but the reason Julius Ceasar doesn't exist as a living humen being anymore is because God doesn't sustain the particular configuration of atoms that make up Julius Ceasar anymore. So, it seems obvious that God, on presentism, did stop sustaining something.

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    8. That seems to assume that God is in time while He's sustaining things, however. I don't think that's the way to think about His sustaining the temporal world.

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    9. No, it doesn't assume that God is in time, it concludes that, if presentism is true, God is in time.

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    10. It really does. It begs the question, by assuming that God is in time while He is sustaining the universe from moment to moment.

      It's completely circular, and to be quite frank, it's very easy to beg the question the other way if you're not careful!

      :)

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    11. As I said, that God is in time while sustaining the universe from moment to moment is the conclusion that follows from your claim that "God is no longer sustaining Julius Caesar as a living human being".
      So, there is no question-begging anywhere.

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    12. Clumsy wording on my part, for sure. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that Julius Caesar is no longer being sustained.

      I appreciate the back and forth. As a rookie, it is always helpful!

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    13. I don't know what a better way of saying it would be, but if you want to avoid the conclusion that presentism is incompatible with classical theism, you should drop the 'no longer' part.
      But I don't think that can be done.

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    14. Julius Caesar does exist. He's either in purgatory, heaven, or hell.

      That there is change in reality does not imply a change in God. He is pure act and hence has no potentialities. If God is pure act and therefore unchanging, and if time just is change, then God obviously is timeless.
      Actualizing potential (which is just what change is) in some being would not imply a change in God who sustains the universe at an utterly foundational level.
      The human body has the potential to shut down for good (ie, to die). This doesn't mean reality is no longer being sustained by God.
      This is just an analogy, but if you think about God as an author, then it should be clear. If I write a story about Jim and Bob, and then write that Bob dies, it is not the case that I need to enter into the book.
      Keep in mind, presentism is the thesis that in the temporal realm, only present objects exist; one can also believe in eternal or aeviternal realities.

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  21. @Tom April 25, 2019 at 10:51 AM

    “God’s existence is necessarily absolutely, not merely by supposition.”
    You can, of course, make the speculation of the necessity of god if you wish, but no sound Aristotelian, Thomistic, or other argument for such necessity has been published into modern general availability, thus the assertion of god remains a supposition.

    For example, the first and second ways employ false premises, false dichotomies, and suffer from a variety of logical and factual defects.

    But, at least A-T was a beginning attempt to use what is evident to our senses in the present to reason about the nature of motion, change, causation, and existence.

    But what is “the present”? If one asserts that observation in the present necessitates god, shouldn’t the most accurate description available for “the present” be stated clearly?
    Is it
    t = 0
    t = the infinitesimal
    t = the limit as delta t goes to 0
    t = t2 – t1
    ?

    If “the present” is t = 0 then a moving object is at any particular point in the present for 0 time. That seems to be a way of saying the object is never at that point, yet we see the object move through that point.

    If “the present” is t = t2 – t1 then what is the smallest value of t one can state, and isn’t any particular choice for t arbitrary?

    So, we arrive at what Leibniz called the infinitesimal, which was later replaced by the limit as the foundation of modern descriptions of “the present” in time dependent processes

    We see then, that in the present things clearly do move themselves, for example, you move yourself and very much have the sense of moving yourself. Perhaps you will attribute that to some sort of immaterial mind, if so, does an amoeba also possess such a mind as it moves itself?

    It is evident to the senses that a great many objects move themselves with no sensory evidence that anything else is moving them in the present moment. One can call for a temporal regress to ask for, in A-T parlance, the accidental cause of the motions of the sun’s prominences, the planets in their orbits, a flickering flame, a worm, or oneself, but there is no sensory evidence for an external hierarchical cause for the motions of such objects,

    I agree with much of what has been stated by the OP in his last few posts with respect to the unreality of past and future. Presentism of existence calls for presentism of causation. I would like to see, however, a clear definition of the term, “the present” and a more exhaustive hierarchical analysis of motion, not simply stopping at the hand in the classic rock-stick-hand example.

    If we continue our present time hierarchical causal regression analysis further down, as it were, we soon arrive at objects that are in fact moving each other in the present, thereby terminating that hierarchical regression without the necessity of god.

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    1. There seems to me quite a few...conceptions that are deformed here as to what's being argued. Perhaps see the other blogs by OP on the specific arguments/A/T thought if not buying the books. Thanks.

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  22. Hi again Alex,

    I think this may beg the question

    It would beg the question only if I was giving some argument for presentism, and making use of premises that presupposed presentism. But that’s not what I was doing there. I was just pointing out the difference between what is merely possible and what used to exist, as the presentist would understand that difference.

    In general, most of what I’ve been doing in these recent posts is not giving arguments for presentism – that’s what the book does – but rather merely noting how certain objections to presentism presuppose a tendentious characterization of the data, or neglect to see certain implications of the broader Aristotelian picture that motivates my own brand of presentism. The recent posts are not intended to convince someone hostile to presentism that presentism is true but rather to show that certain objections to my own brand of presentism beg the question or miss the point or are otherwise deficient.

    it seems hard to deny that on presentism the English phrase "It was the case that" behaves like a modal operator.

    Sure, it might behave that way in some respects. My remarks were merely intended to warn against supposing that interpreting it as a kind of operator will settle any metaphysical questions in a non-question-begging way – any more than (for example) Anthony Kenny’s appeal to the existential quantifier settles the dispute between Aquinas’s doctrine of being and its analytic critics in a non-question-begging way. People often think formal methods are metaphysically neutral precisely because they are formal, and my point is that that is not the case, or at least that the use of, or lessons drawn from, the formal methods are not always metaphysically neutral.

    On your view, as I read it, there are at least five ways to be real… past and future things are real in a way in which imaginary and merely possible things are not.

    That’s a misleading way of putting it. For example, it’s not that past things are real in a way that imaginary and merely possible things are not. It’s that they were real, whereas imaginary and merely possible things never were.

    It seems to me that you keep trying to translate what the presentist is saying into tenseless terms, whereas the presentist’s whole point (or mine, anyway) is that that is precisely what we should not do, and that when we do we simply beg the question against presentism.

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    1. Hi Prof. Feser (or anyone else),

      What does it mean to exist or to be real? And are these two terms synonyms?

      Would an Aristotelian-Thomist consider numbers to be real, for example?

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    2. Dear Ed:

      You say that past things *were* real.

      Why isn't that an exact parallel to the fact that golden mountains *are-possibly* real or that Sherlock Holmes is-according-to-a=story real?

      Is it just that things that were real or will be real *have* a grounding role, but things that are possibly real don't have a grounding role?

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  23. Overseas readers should be careful about buying this book, as it is possible for your package to be lost in a sea battle.

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    1. Unless you're an Eternalist. Then your book is already lost and has no potential to not be lost.

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    2. In fact, Eternalists get their copy much faster than Presentists do. Their book arrives well before they're aware they've even ordered it.

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  24. "But what about the past, such as the banana’s being green? Does that exist after the banana has turned yellow? How could it? After the banana has turned yellow, its greenness is at that point no longer actual, any more than the brownness is actual."

    I think we can say that time travel is at least is posible/plausible. Take the example of the banana that goes from greenness to yellowness to finally brown. Now also suppose that those changes begun last friday and now the banana is brown. If I could someway actualize the potencial of the banana to be yellow and then its potencial to be green, can this be describe as kind of time travel?

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    1. Yellow bananas do not have a potential to be green.

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    2. You seem to be saying it's impossible for a yellow banana to become green again?

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    3. No, he is saying that potential greenness is no longer in the banana. It is of course possible for some external being with the power of greenness to make the banana green again.

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    4. "It is of course possible for some external being with the power of greenness to make the banana green again".

      I suppose that "being" could be God, right? So go back to the banana that begun to change last friday. Now it is brown. If God made the banana green again could that be describe as a time travel?

      Or suppose that God inverts the order from potential to actual to the order from actual to potencial so that any potencial that has been actualized becomes a potential again. A man who is 30 becomes a child. Would that be a case of time travel?

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    5. No, it would just be odd. This second greenness would be just that, a second greenness (given to the banana by God/the other being), and not the first greenness. There’s nothing that could be done to a banana that could make it the first greenness again. Same for the man/child. If a man becomes a child, we would consider that very odd. However that would not somehow imply that the past which no longer exists somehow is existing for the first time.

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    6. I think I got it. Time travel is *metaphysically* impossible because what used to exist(objects, event and potentials?) it does not anymore so the greenness of the banana does not exist when it is actually yellow.

      Thanks

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  25. A YouTuber has created a video critiquing Dr. Feser's Eternalism (I.e. act and
    and reconciling it in a block universe).

    https://youtu.be/w6hOlUogv3w

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  26. @Anon
    "A YouTuber has created a video critiquing Dr. Feser's Eternalism"
    Feser is not asserting eternalism. His last few posts are asserting presentism.

    The young man in the video asserts that past, present, and future are equally real, so it is the youtuber "Agnostic.Philosophy" that is asserting eternalism.

    In my view eternalism is woo, and so is A-T, but for different reasons.

    At least the OP and I agree a little bit, the past and the future are unreal, only the present is real.

    However, I have not seen, and perhaps I simply missed it, but I have not seen from the OP or anybody else on this thread a clear definition of "the present".

    Anybody?

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  27. Dr.Feser I hope an open thread is coming soon. There are a lot of interesting discussions to be had.

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  28. Feser proposes a universe consisting of a single green banana that is not changing, so there is no passage of time in this imagined universe. However, if the banana ripens from green to yellow and rots from yellow to brown, then we have the passage of time because this universe is changing.
    Feser is wrong because there can be no ‘passage of time’ in a universe of a single motion or mutation. By proclaiming the ‘passage of time’ in a single-motion universe, Feser is himself Platonizing time. For change to take time or for time to pass, there must be a second independent motion to which to compare the change, as well as a human mind to make the comparison.
    There are two disparate meanings of the word, time. One is qualitative, namely the condition of mutability or mutation itself. With this meaning we say that something exists in time. i.e. it is subject to change. The other is quantitative, namely the human mental act of comparing one motion with a second motion. This is measurement. With this meaning we speak of passing time or of taking time when all we experience is the non-quantifiable, ever present, now.

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  29. One difficulty I have with presentism is specifically theological. I'm not sure how presentism can be squared with the fact that all moments of time are present to God. In a universe with only changeable things, or in an Aristotelian universe where the timeless God has no interaction with the world, this problem doesn't arise. But if we believe that God is both timeless and aware of/engaged in the contingent world, how can the past and future be unreal? How can they be timelessly present to God if they don't really exist?

    As an aside, I've never actually seen this objection addressed, but it seems very intuitive to me. It's possible that the reason is that there's a really simple answer, but if so, I've got a blind spot here.

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