Monday, January 25, 2021

Koons on time and relative actuality

Rob Koons has reactivated his AnalyticThomist blog, which you must check out if you are interested in metaphysics done in a way that brings analytic philosophy and Thomism into conversation.  Rob was also recently interviewed on the What We Can’t Not Talk About podcast on the topic of Aristotle and modern science.  That topic is the focus of his recent work, and he has been especially interested in how Aristotelians ought to approach quantum mechanics and the nature of time. 

The latter subject is the focus of some of his latest blog posts, and also something about which Rob and I recently had an exchange in the pages of the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.  In Aristotle’s Revenge, I argue that while Aristotelianism can in principle be reconciled with either the A- or the B-theory of time, the A-theory is by far the more natural view to take, and the presentist version of the A-theory especially.  Rob disagrees, and argues that Aristotelian metaphysics is equally compatible with either theory or with some third, intermediate theory.  We hash this out in some depth in the ACPQ exchange, and Rob repeats some of his main theses in the recent blog posts.  Here I’ll reiterate some of my own misgivings about his position.

The B-theory of time holds that past, present, and future things and events are all equally real, and that temporal passage and the now or present are illusory.  The A-theory, by contrast, takes temporal passage and the now or present to be real.  The presentist version of the A-theory also holds that, where time is concerned, only present things and events are real.  (A presentist could allow that there are also things that exist altogether outside of time, either eternally or aeviternally.)  The “growing block” version of the A-theory holds that present and past events are real.  The “moving spotlight” version of the A-theory allows that past and future events are as real as present ones.

One of the issues that arises in the ACPQ exchange is whether the B-theory can accommodate notions of change and efficient causation robust enough for an Aristotelian.  I argue that it cannot.  Change and efficient causation, on an Aristotelian account, entail the actualization of potentiality.  But it seems that on a B-theory, since all past, present, and future things and events are equally real, everything is actual, and there is no real potentiality.  Hence there is no real efficient causation or change.  The theory collapses into an essentially Parmenidean position, at least with respect to time and change.

Rob’s response to this is to suggest that a B-theorist could affirm both actuality and potentiality by speaking of relative actualities and potentialities.  Consider a banana that is green at time t1, yellow at time t2, and brown at time t3.  True, the B-theory holds that from an absolute point of view, times t1, t2, and t3 are equally real, and that the greenness, yellowness, and brownness of the banana are all equally actual.  Nevertheless, relative to t1, only the greenness is actual and the yellowness and brownness are merely potential; relative to t2, the greenness is no longer actual but the yellowness is actual, and the brownness remains potential; and so on.  Rob develops this proposal in his ACPQ article and briefly summarizes it in his recent blog posts.

But I don’t think this works.  Here’s one problem with it.  Suppose someone suggested that time was nothing more than a spatial dimension.  I reject this view, and Rob wants to avoid it too.  One problem with it is that it also seems incompatible with the existence of real potentialities in the world.  If past, present, and future events are equally real in exactly the same way that the spatially separated hot and cold ends of a fireplace poker are (to borrow a famous example from McTaggart), then it seems that they are equally actual, just as the hot and cold ends of the poker are equally actual.  There is no real potentiality in a spatialized conception of time, and thus no real change – and thus, really, no time either. 

But suppose our imagined spatializer of time defended his view by saying that there is potentiality of at least a relative sort on his conception of time.  Suppose he appealed to the poker analogy, and suggested that we could say that relative to the left side of the poker, the poker was actually cold but potentially hot, whereas relative to the right side, it was actually hot and potentially cold.  Suppose he suggested that there was therefore a kind of “change” in the poker from left to right.  And suppose he suggested that a similar kind of relative actuality and potentiality could be attributed to things and events at his spatialized points of time, and that a similar kind of change could therefore be attributed to them too.

In my view this would be clearly fallacious, involving little more than a pun on the word “change.”  (See Aristotle’s Revenge for detailed criticism of spatialized conceptions of time.)  I imagine Rob might agree, since, as I say, he too wants to avoid spatializing time, or at least denies that the B-theory need be interpreted as spatializing it.  But I fail to see how Rob’s notion of relative actuality and potentiality captures real potentiality, and thus real change, any more than my imagined spatializer of time does.

Here’s another way of thinking about the problem.  How does talk about relative actuality and potentiality capture real change or efficient causation any more than if we were to describe the objects and events of a fictional story as “relatively actual” (that is, relative to the story) even if they are from an absolute point of view merely potential (since the story is fictional)?  We need to know what it is, specifically, about Rob’s conception of the relation between the banana’s being green at t1 and yellow at t2 that makes the transition from the one to the other any more a case of real change involving real causation than the events of a fictional story are. 

In short, talk of “relative actuality” and “relative potentiality” by itself doesn’t seem sufficient to do the job Rob needs it to do.  For we could use such language to describe an entirely spatialized conception of time, and yet it wouldn’t really give us genuine potentiality.  Or we could use it to describe an entirely fictional world, and yet it wouldn’t give us genuine actuality.   The notion of being “relatively” actual or potential seems – by itself, with no further elaboration – too thin to do the needed metaphysical work.  (I criticize Rob’s position in more detail in the ACPQ paper.)

Related posts:

Cundy on relativity and the A-theory of time

Gödel and the unreality of time

Vallicella on the truthmaker objection against presentism

Vallicella on existence-entailing relations and presentism

Aristotelians ought to be presentists

More on presentism and truthmakers

Craig contra the truthmaker objection to presentism

Presentism and analogical language

Time, space, and God


  1. Based on what I glean from this post, you could argue that the B theory describes time from the Divine perspective; and the A theory, the human (and angelic) perspective.

    God is more real than creation, and is present and unchanging at every moment of created time. The world is His fiction and He is outside of its time while causing all of its moments.

    If I write a book with a character who buys a banana; it will be green on page one, and yellow on page two, etc.

    For the character in the book however, the banana is actually changing and time is actually passing.
    He is living in an A theory system.

    For our purposes, we can use the theory that matches the application. We are living in an A theory system that will last until we leave it for aeviternity at death; while interacting with God, who is living in a B system. For theological purposes, we can apply the B theory when creation is not involved.

    By this method, the conflict between the two systems is resolved without either system being invalidated.

    Am I missing anything critical?

    1. These are some intriguing comments Tim. I've been thinking about these issues myself recently. I don't see how B theory can describe time from the Divine perspective if B theory is not true. But there is the question of we cash out the notion of all times being eternally present to God if only the present exists. Stump does this, at least as I've heard, by bringing in different "reference frames" (which sounds like what you may mean with your divine vs. creature perspective). I think that's on to something, but I'd like to think and read about this more.

    2. If God is viewing things from a B theory perspective, that would simply mean that B theory is true, A theory is false and just appears to us as true.

      Also, I take issue with what you say near the end:

      "while interacting with God, who is living in a B system"

      Here you're not talking about how God sees created things, but how He Himself exists. God doesn't live in any kind of system, A or B. I don't think he can be in time since he doesn't and couldn't change, and he's not a totality of things and events spatially located as the B theory seems to be representing the universe.

    3. The main problem I see is that on the A theory, the following scenario is possible.
      X exists from t1 until t3, while Y exists from t5 until t7.
      Since, according to A-T metaphysics, in order for something to exist, it must be created as well as actively sustained by the Unmoved Mover, The Unmoved Mover stopped sustaining X at t3 and started sustaining Y at t5.
      But an Unmoved mover cannot start or stop doing something, hence, if A theory is correct, A-T metaphysics is wrong.

    4. Walter,

      Yer equivocating. Remember Aristotle's Revenge? Time has more than one definition and you are likely confusing SpaceTime with Metaphysical Time (i.e. the measure of change from moment to moment).

      Also I respectfully submit you are confusing real change with Cambridge change? This is Graham Oppy's mistake when he debated Feser.

      >X exists from t1 until t3, while Y exists from t5 until t7.

      Good so far. But the only change/movement I see there is time.

      >Since, according to A-T metaphysics, in order for something to exist, it must be created as well as actively sustained by the Unmoved Mover,

      I am with you.

      >The Unmoved Mover stopped sustaining X at t3 and started sustaining Y at t5.

      How is that impossible? My living cat stopped being a living cat after the vet put her down. My Cat no longer exists as a living Cat in the present. How does this refute AT metaphysics it seems it presupposes it?

      Are you claim God who is Pure Act cannot actualize something to have a limited existence and too cease to have being? If not why not? Are you saying a being cannot loose an attribute or accident if God stops sustaining the conditions of said accident?

      >But an Unmoved mover cannot start or stop doing something, hence, if A theory is correct, A-T metaphysics is wrong.

      By that logic God could not create in the first place? God is unmoved because nothing causes Him or changes Him. You are conflating Unmoved with being in Uber Stasis. Me thinks so.

      Of course the whole A Theory and B Theory nonsense is itself an incomplete philosophical modeling of time and so confusion is inevitable.

    5. @Walter


      >But an Unmoved mover cannot start or stop doing something,

      Upon further reflection I would say this is true in the Brian Davies sense. He said God cannot be said to intervene in the world because He is already intimately involved in its works and existence.

      But God in the Classic Sense acts in one big giant act in which he does everything He will do all at once. He is not some NeoTheist/Theistic Personalist shite sub-deity like Zeus who exists in time watches what is going on and reacts in real time.

      Thus God from all eternity can by one act cause it that X exists from t1 until t3, while Y exists from t5 until t7.

      Pure Act by definition can only Act Once and immutably.


    6. Zeno,

      Your right, I should have worded it a little more carefully.

      Also, I haven't studied the A vs B debate that much. I usually assume the professor is right in such cases, but I try too offer suggestions that will be helpful or interesting to the other readers.

    7. @Walter

      Ed did respond to this objection before, check it out:

    8. Son of Ya'kov

      No, I am not equivocating. I am simply arguing from A theory of time, the way Ed and most other people understand it.
      And I am not confusing real change with Cambridge change either.
      The fact that your cat stopped being a living cat doesn't matter. your cat is/was not immutable and timeless.
      An immutable being can, by definition, not start or stop doing anything.
      You said it yourself, that "God in the Classic Sense acts in one big giant act". It is not true that by that logic God could not create in the first place. My argument is o,nly about A theory. I am agreeing for the sake of the argument that God could create if B theory is correct.

    9. Talmid

      The blog post you linked does not answer my objection. It may answer Dharmakirti's objection, although I doubt it.
      Ed's line-drawing analogy fails as a response to my objection because what i say does not merely entail that God could draw a certain line while not drawing another one. Of course he can do that, and so can I. My objection is that on A theory, God is simultaneously drawing and not drawing the very same line.

    10. So, i can't see much diference between what Ed responds to in his post and your objection. Both of the objections seems to boil down to saying that in order to sustain the changing world God would have to change as well.

      This ignores that the classical view is that God transcends time, so there is no change in His part, as Edward tries to expoain in the post. You can disagree, but i don't see the objections as being diferent. Maybe i'am resding you wrong.

    11. Talmid

      No, it doesn't ignore that God transcends time, it argues why, on A theory of time, God starts and stops doing things, which is impossible for a being that transcends time.

    12. I think one important thing to note. When people try to fit God into an A or B theory of time, they often forget the fact that God is in a mixed relation with Creation. Creation is really related to God, but God is not really related to Creation (only logically related). So it is not as if God is gleaning information from creation by looking at Creation from His B-time perspective. Rather, Creation exists in an A-time frame, and God knows everything in Creation, including its presentism insofar as He knows how His essence is imitable. The fact that it is 7:43 for me right now does not mean that it is REALLY 7:43 for God right now because of the doctrine of mixed relations.

    13. Scott

      My objection is not about what God knows but about what God does.
      If A theory is correct, then things begin to exist and stop existing. But if it is true that things only exist insofar as god actively sustains them, it follows logically that if X exists from t1 to t3, God started and stopped sustaining X, which means God is temporal.
      I think the claim that Creation is really related to God, but God is not really related to Creation is only possibly tenable on B theory of time.

    14. Walter,

      I think your problem is that you are regarding creation as a change, a motion from a weird kind of “nothing” substance to a “something” substance. In reality, creation is the creation of the entire being ex nihilo. God could create a timeless (aeviternal) being, such as an angel, or he could create a changing being, such as a human. Whether B theory or A theory is true depends on what kinds of objects God creates. So in that sense, both A and B theory are true, or either could be true, or neither could be true (if God did not create anything).

      But the point is that God is not changing when He creates. He is not thinking to Himself from eternity “I should make something” and then deciding to make something. Rather, His one eternal and simple act of will causes all of created being. But this act has as much effect on God as Him not creating anything at all. We are the ones who are caused by Creation, and thus we have the dependence on God. We start and stop existing at t1 and t3 because we are caused/not caused at t1 and t3. But God causes from eternity. Not from B-time which has parts, but from true and perfectly simple eternity. And this cause does not pose any change in Hon because of the mixed relation.

    15. Scott

      We cannot be caused/not caused at t1 and t3, because there is no t1 or t3 in 'simple eternity', there is only 'simple eternity', which, as you say, has no parts.
      So, if t1 and t3 are real 'present' moments, as in A theory, that means that God is both causing X and not causing X in the same sense.

    16. I think you are assuming God has a real relation to creation in which God has to be co-temporal with His effects. We are caused by God at time t1 and not caused at time t3, but that does not mean God is causing us at time t1 and time t3 (at least from His perspective). We can say God is causing/not causing us at these times, but that merely connotes the logical relation God has to Creation. In reality, His causality is eternal. And it is only contradictory for Him to do so if His effect is identical. We certainly cannot be caused and not caused by God simultaneously at time t1 only, but there is nothing contradictory about being caused at t1 and not caused at t3. To say that a difference in the effect necessitates a difference in the cause just begs the question against someone who affirms the doctrine of mixed relations and divine simplicity.

    17. Scott

      If God's causality is eternal, then either we are eternally caused or we are eternally not caused. To say that we are both eternally caused as well as eternally not caused is a contradiction.
      If you say there is nothing contradictory about being caused at t1 and not caused at t3 you are the one making God co-temporal with His effects.

  2. First!

    By the way, Ed what do you think about the so-called "process philosophy" adopted by some Hindus and most Buddhists?

    Dominus Tecum!

    Regards from Brazil!

  3. I remember a year or so back (actually it was before the release of Aristotle's Revenge) there was a paper by Blackmann arguing that causal powers were incompatible with the B theory and you had to be a Humean (though to be fair his desired aim was to make causal powers incompatible with *all* theories of time!)

    Given the resurgence of aristotelian causal powers in phil of science I wonder if any good responses were published? Would seem at first glance to be along the same path as Ed's reply to Rob

  4. Isn’t all change by definition relative?

    Change in the relative world is about a cause bringing out a potential. I’m not sure how much we can know about the absolute in this life, but from what I do know I would guess that absolute change is more about the character of souls and the content of memory? Time and space are ‘just’ the stage, but I will avoid quoting Shakespeare to support my position :)

  5. Dr. Feser,

    Is Dr. Koons’ position relevant to idea that for God all times are “eternally present” to Him? Or as Aquinas says in one place “His eternity includes all times” (Summa 1.10.2 reply to obj 4).

  6. This is the modern version of arguing how many angels fit on the head of a pin. It starts from the false premise of absolutizing either existence or time, and thus ends with the false dichotomy that either past/future objects aren't real or else time isn't real. In fact, the two things are interdependent: temporal objects exist relative to a given time, and time itself wouldn't exist without temporal objects.

    To show how absurd this is: nothing you see is real, according to A-theory (at least the presentist version), and you are left with at least an epistemological solipsism. There is a temporal lag between the emission of photons from the object and their reception on your retina. The only thing "real" is the photons, not the object itself, since past things don't really exist. But A-theory presentists must deny even this, since there is a time delay between the reception of photons of the retina and the processing of the signal by your brain. So the only thing "real" for you is what your brain does in the moment.

    1. You are confusing what is present with what is simulteneous. That need not be the case.

      Talk of moments is largely just a means of simplifying the thought experiment. Really, its not particularly important.

    2. I think you've reworded the article beyond recognition....

  7. Yer not up on philosophy are you sunshine?

    >The only thing "real" is the photons, not the object itself, since past things don't really exist.

    No you sad sack sophist. The past action of the photons hitting the object before going to yer eyes is no long real after it happens. The real photons have to hit a real object and have some of them be absorbed and other not so they can reach yer real eyes which really tells you something is really there.

    >To show how absurd this is: nothing you see is real..

    No nothing you see is in yer absolute present now. But so what? It doesn't make the present any less real or the things you interact with in the present any less real. No does it make the past real just because you interact with the real presents effects of protons who struck those objects in the past.

    >It starts from the false premise of absolutizing either existence or time,

    What kind of time? Are we talking Spacetime or Metaphysical Time? Did you even read ARISTOTLE'S REVENGE? You can't equivocate on definitions and be taken seriously here.

    Do yer homework man!

    >This is the modern version of arguing how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

    Rather it is the ignorant complaining of philosophical illiterates and positivist fanboyz who are in desperate need of a classical education

    1. Rage-filled rants filled with grammar and spelling errors are hardly going to convince anyone of your philosophical literacy or classical education. In fact you're quite the illiterate; logic is evidently not your strong suit. You missed the point of what I was trying to say by a country mile, and then smugly proclaim how ignorant I am.

      However it isn't surprising you're not in contact in reality; for you, there is no reality to be in contact with.

      "The past action of the photons hitting the object before going to yer eyes is no long real after it happens. The real photons have to hit a real object and have some of them be absorbed and other not so they can reach yer real eyes which really tells you something is really there."

      But those "real" photons didn't "really" hit a "real" object. Those photons were in the past, the action of hitting was in the past, and the object we are referring to was in the past. None of that is real, according to presentist A-theory. And, common sense tells you those photons tell you something "really" WAS there, but presentist A-theory says that what WAS isn't real.

      "No nothing you see is in yer absolute present now. But so what? It doesn't make the present any less real or the things you interact with in the present any less real. No does it make the past real just because you interact with the real presents effects of protons who struck those objects in the past."

      So nothing you see is real. If everything you see is in the past, nothing in the past is real, then nothing you see is real. Logic isn't your strong suit.

      "What kind of time? Are we talking Spacetime or Metaphysical Time? Did you even read ARISTOTLE'S REVENGE? You can't equivocate on definitions and be taken seriously here."

      I didn't equivocate on definitions. It's quite evident from the context here that I am talking about metaphysical time. You're just making sh*t up to make me look "ignorant".

    2. Gone Fishing
      Son of Yucky is a Google philosopher. And not a good one at that.

    3. Part one
      Yer a moron who is a philosophical illiterate & ya can't fake it here. I have bad spelling and grammar skills and I dina fash about it or care. I own it. You son can't reason yer way out of a paper bag and crying like a wee girl over it won't help ya me boi.

      Let me disembowel yer stupidity here and now. If only for shites and giggles.

      >But those "real" photons didn't "really"
      hit a "real" object.

      How do you really know that since the thought processes by which you come to that comical conclusion are not real either? You are as TN correctly says below exempting yerself from the same conditions argued against. That is incoherent. This is yer wee brain on positivism, anti-realism and Hume. Any questions? You believe stupid shite.

      >Those photons were in the past, the action of hitting was in the past, and the object we are referring to was in the past.

      Beg the question much? You are assuming the very B Theory conditions you have not proven & mixing and matching it with A Theory. The actions took place in the past and the objects moved threw time into their future which is the present to put it crudely.

      There is no reason to believe the past proton and present proton are two different beings or protons. It is the same being moving threw time. The potency made act by something already in act was in the past. That act no longer exists as it is now past. The same Photon is still here genius in some form or another. Opps!

      > None of that is real, according to presentist A-theory.

      Nope yer equivocating & mixing and matching the conditions of B Theory and A Theory. A- Theory does not demand it that is nonsense.

      >And, common sense tells you those photons tell you something "really" WAS there, but presentist A-theory says that what WAS isn't real.

      No shite for brains Presentist A Theory tells us the past no longer exists. Only the present truly exists. You cannot conclude the photon in its past is not the same photon it is right now in essence. A Theory makes no such assumptions yer just making shite up and making yerself look ignorant.

      Repeating the dumb shite you just said, that I destroyed with some brutal common sense is not a rebuttal. There is no reason under A Theory to treat the Proton at T1 and the same Proton at T2 when it reaches yer eye as two different beings or things. It is the same proton ya ponce.

    4. Part two

      >So nothing you see is real.

      By that same bit of sophistry neither is yer idiot argument. Also how is it not real? Yer just claiming it add hock. It is real in the senses before it is real in the intellect. That is all ya need wee boi.

      >If everything you see is in the past, nothing in the past is real, then nothing you see is real. Logic isn't your strong suit.

      That is not logic moron that is sophistry. Logic is only as strong as yer correct presuppositions and consistent definitions. The following is a logical statement. "The married bachelor is dead therefore the married bachelor is not living". Yeh a "married bachelor" is a contradiction according to proper definitions so his medical status is not german to that.

      The past is the word we use to describe acts that are no longer occurring in the present.
      Nothing more. It is not a worm in spacetime. It is not something that exists which we can visit using a TARDIS. Dr. Who is nor real anymore than any Theistic Personalist "deity" or the Easter Bunny.

      >I didn't equivocate on definitions.

      Yeh and Bill Clinton didn't have sex with that woman.....

      >It's quite evident from the context here that I am talking about metaphysical time.

      No it is not.

      Metaphysical time is the measure of change sunshine. It looks more like yer talking about 4d space time.

      Quote"relativity theory simply isn’t using the word “time” in the same sense as the presentist metaphysician is. Quentin Smith draws a distinction between metaphysical time and STR time, which he develops as follows: Something “exists in time” in the broadest sense if temporal predicates are required to describe any of the object's states, including such relational states as the exemplifications of relational properties of being referred to. Let us call this broadest sense of time metaphysical time… Narrower senses of “exists in time” correlate to less complete descriptions of an object, such as a description that mentions only states involving real (rather than Cambridge) changes in an object or only states involving luminal or sub-luminal physical relations with other objects. One of these narrower senses of "exists in time” is the sense that “time” has in the STR, and time in this sense may be called STR time. (1993, p. 230) One could then argue that since STR and the presentist metaphysician are not really talking about the same thing, they do not contradict one another. Smith proposes that “the STR shows not that [metaphysical] time is relative but merely that certain light-connectibility relations are relative” (p. 231). (Though as Smith’s own views have developed, he has come to defend a variation of the neo-Lorentzian view that Einstein got the physics wrong. See Smith 2008.) Insofar as Zimmerman’s position allows for some kind of reality even to non-occupied points of the Minkowskian manifold, it is plausibly realist. But it is worth noting that even Woodruff’s view can, as he notes (2011, pp. 120-4), be read as a kind of realism rather than instrumentalism.

      Feser, Edward. Aristotle’s Revenge . EDITIONES SCHOLASTICAE. Kindle Edition.

      Ya get that moron?

      >You're just making sh*t up to make me look "ignorant".

      You don't need my help to look ignorant.

      It was you sunshine who said "In fact, the two things are interdependent: temporal objects exist relative to a given time, and time itself wouldn't exist without temporal objects."

      Yeh that looks like yer talking about STR Time not Metaphysical Time.

      Ya can't fake it around here buddy.

      Now impress me with more pushback on yer stupidity.

    5. To simplify so that even Gonefishing can understand. Metaphysical Time is not relative according to Smith(an Atheist BTW just saying). GF OTOH is talking about relative time ergo he is talking about STR time not metaphysical time. He is equivocating and confusing them.

      He is not giving us logic he is giving us sophistry.

      Aristotle defines time as the measure of change and it is a fact you cannot measure time without using an instrument that contains within its mechanisms some engine of change. There is no ruler you put next to Space time to measure it. Clocks wither atomic or mechanical are devices who mechanisms use act/potency change to measure the passage of time. Hands moving on the clock. Particles decaying show the passage of time. Numbers changing in the digital. There are no time rulers. Time is the measure of change and you need a changing mechanism to measure time. Even sitting there and counting in yer head fires nerves and brain cells. Real change is needed to really measure time.

      That alone should show the rank stupidity of
      anti-realism and time.

      Again there are no time rulers without moving parts.....

      Just saying....

    6. You're a sexist and a misogynist ("wee girl", really?). Therefore disqualified from serious consideration as someone I will listen to about anything. Not that you really had anything to say anyway.

    7. Yer still a moron and an intellectual illiterate. You clearly didn't read ARISTOTLE'S REVENGE and you don't know enough about the subject matter to discuss it intelligently or offer intelligent criticism.

      No sense crying like a wee girl over that.

      Now clear off.

  8. It seems all the varied attempts to pull back the curtain and show how things really are as opposed to the way they seem, all suffer from the same problem: the proponent can't explain how it is that he is exempt from the condition argued against. The atheist who argues against causality by smugly proclaiming that QM proves otherwise, cannot explain how it is that his own thought is exempt and only he can do the correct translation between the classical/common sense view of the uninitiated, and the way things "really" are.

    And so if all potentials are actually actual (there must be a joke in there somewhere), how is it that the proponent of the B theory could claim objectivity? Is the mind exempt? How so? In the infinite ways in which he could--and does if his argument is true--claim to think otherwise, what makes this particular actualized potential the correct one?

    1. You win the Blog today! That is an awesome insight. I wish I thought of it I am jealous.

    2. I should add, that I am not saying that our first intuitions are always correct. We might intuitively think geocentric orbit is true and find out later that it isn't; or we may think that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects, and find out likewise. This type of "common sense" conclusion is not always true, of course. But we still employ the same epistemological tools in any case. But the critic of common sense epistemology is special pleading his own ability to know.

    3. Son of Yucky
      Your convoluted effort to show that you are not a Google philosopher failed. But it was a valiant attempt, nevertheless.

    4. T N,

      Yes. But A-theory also has its own problems. It's absurd to think that a house that was there ten years ago has the same ontological status as a house in a fairy tale. The point is that for contingent objects (or actualities) "existence" is only a well-defined concept relative to a particular time.

    5. Gone,

      "It's absurd to think that a house that was there ten years ago has the same ontological status as a house in a fairy tale".

      Oh okay. Ever thought of starting your own blog? . . . somewhere else?

    6. "It's absurd to think that a house that was there ten years ago has the same ontological status as a house in a fairy tale."

      It doesn't say it's exactly the same, since the house once existed, whereas the fairy tale one never existed. In the relevant sense, however, yes, neither the "past house" (qua past house) or the fairy tale house exist. How is this absurd without simply begging the question against A theory? It seems you just think A theory is weird. I don't. It strikes me as essentially correct and obvious that the old past house is as non-existent as the fictional house, in the relevant sense.

  9. His blog doesn't seem to be active.

  10. Replies
    1. Me boi Grounds Keeper Willie the Gille of Springfield Elementary is a national treasure and a fine figure of a cartoon Scottish man. He is noble and brace and fears no one. True he likes to secretly video tape people. Which in this country people think yer some kind of pervert if you do that BUT EVERY SINGLE SCOTTISH PERSON DOES IT!

      So you will excuse me as I take a brief break from posting to review my video collection. BTW yer maw looks great in that bikini and so she does. :D

      Alba Gu Brah!!!

    2. You can't be Grounds Keeper Willie then. Hows about Rab C Nesbit?

  11. Replies
    1. Scotland is part of England isn't it?

    2. No it isn't it is part of Great Britain. Thought many Scots don't see a practical difference.:D As I am a diaspora American Scot I dina fash about it.

    3. But Scotland is part of the United Kingdom.

  12. It's hard to see how Thomism, which is based upon Theology acting as a fact-check for philosophy, can have a conversation with analytic philosophy apart from the conversation of the good fight.

    Some say analytic philosophy brings necessary "clarity" and "precision". But its modern English approach of breaking things down and muddling though when it comes to the big questions that are the business of philosophy just doesn't work.

    After decades of research Roger Scruton could write that a Story about Creation is a story about "nothing", or that God is "the subjectivity of the world" (subjectivity being self-consciousness). This is not an example of intellectual rigor or even an encouraging sign of comprehension of religion. Strange that someone so perceptive about many things in society and art could not appreciate the big question. Blame his philosophies. Having tea and scones with such notions shouldn't be on the Thomistic menu.

    1. A minor quibble. Thomism isn't just about theology as there is an Aristotelian component and essentialist philosophical presupposition to its core that is designed to answer the errors of modern philosophy.

      That having been said I agree Analytic Philosophy is inadequate. Still you have to start the dialog somewhere before you start correcting things. If you want an analogy in Catholic Apologetics it is a popular tactic when arguing with a Protestant to sometimes limit ones arguments to appeals to scripture alone since Protestants don't accept Apostolic Tradition as an authority.

      But such practical limiting doesn't really mean we Catholic profess Luther's error of Sola Scriptura.

      In a like manner I believe Analytical Thomism and Analytical Philosophy has its place but in the end we need to move beyond it and argue for the superiority of the classic reasoning.


    2. Miguel, Roger Scruton was not in any sense a Thomist, as one might imagine from what you write. I'm pretty sure he wasn't an orthodox Christian. I read about half of one of his books on religious matters, and found he looked for wisdom anywhere (in Art or in philosophy or nature), but made no use of the scriptures, the creeds, the writings of the saints, the writings of modern-day Christian leaders, or the practical day-to-day lives of believers. I found it strange, as if he had an allergy to the primary sources....

    3. Michael, I agree. He was intimately connected to analytic philosophy though, which is why I brought it up in reference to the analytic-Thomism proposal at the start of this post. I think he was well acquainted with the sources you mention but was blinded by his philosophical ideas. These allowed him to provide other meanings to the dogmas and practices of orthodox Christians. This is standard practice for believers of esoteric ideas in general. You can surround them with dogmas and believers all their lives - if they are conservatives, they will probably even feel comfortable there - but it's water off a duck's back. They don't believe because they refuse to accept what the words (even those from God) are intended to mean.

    4. That's a strange thing to say. Analytical thomism, like most schools of thomism, aren't about transplanting everything from the head of St Thomas into a new package. The idea is simply that people who know or enjoy both analytic philosophy and thomism, perhaps in different elements, can find themselves at a home.

      For instance, I'm actually of the opinion that philosophy is superior to theology; theology to me is entirely inferior to philosophy and is submissive to it. This is a non-thomistic position, in fact it goes directly against Aquinas's own view. But nevertheless, my metaphysic is broadly thomistic (real distinction of essence and existence, hylemorphism, the principles of reason and of nature, etc) to the point where I can call myself a "thomist" in a meaningful sense, since I'd be defending many of Aquinas's main views. It's kinda similar to the distinction between "marxism" and "marxianism".

      Analytical thomism is for those who hold many thomistic metaphysical views but also recognize the value of analytic philosophy and the progress it has made over the decades.

    5. Nobody can prevent people who like analytical philosophy also liking something they call Thomism, but a thing or a home called analytical-Thomism is no more congruous than Christian-Marxism. The view that theology is superior to philosophy isn't just one more Thomist position; it is a sine qua non of Thomism.

      I can't prevent you from considering yourself a Thomist any more than Roger Scruton could be prevented from calling something religion that was anything but that. Of course, this is a matter for the individual, but a problem arises when such notions are presented under the veil of orthodoxy. This is dangerous to the faith of Catholics and can never be accepted. Catholics and their religion can accept any hyphenisation, as long as it's compatible.

    6. It's for the convenience of terms in discussions and the like. You could say I'm not really a thomist - well, okay. But I'm still in agreement with Aquinas and classical thomists in a very large number of topics. In practical terms, I'll be defending Aquinas's views on a very large host of issues, so at this point it's a matter of practicality to call me a thomist.

      A linguistic community uses terms for its purposes; philosophers are generally interested in "thomism" when it comes to its main metaphysical theses.

      Now, let's be clear, since this is important: I don't think your position is justified in any way however, since I think there's no opposition between analytic philosophy and thomism. My views that theology is submissive to philosophy, that reason takes precedence over faith, etc. are my own. They do not simply follow from analytic philosophy, and you'll find a bunch of analytical thomists who disagree with me.

      The thing is that "analytic philosophy" is itself just a method that prioritizes clarity of language and explicit argumentation and logic. It is in itself very similar to the Scholastic method; the difference is mostly that analytic philosophy has kept up with the seminal advances in logic, mathematics and science since the middle ages. You won't find Aquinas using formal logic, for instance. Then you could also say that analytic philosophy has kept up with many advancements in philosophy of language, and we have clearer, technical distinctions in metaphysics now (tropes vs tokens, etc). But there's no real position that any analytic "has to hold" that is in contradiction to thomism or whatever, since analytic philosophy really is just a way of doing philosophy that prioritizes clear argumentation and logic, to differentiate itself from continental philosophy (which is marked by existentialism, phenomenology, etc).

      So, actually, analytic philosophy is much closer to thomism in spirit. I don't think there's any opposition, really. One can be an analytic thomist, just like how one can be an analytic neoplatonist, or an analytic platonist.

    7. Continental Philosophies are closer to Thomism in that they generally stipulate a metaphysical basis for the world, whereas analytic philosophy as Quine put it, insists on anything but. Dogmatism, even false dogmatism, is always closer to the truth than something that denies its possibility.

      Analytic philosophy as represented by Quine, is anything but a method of logic. Not only does it reject the soul, truth, metaphysics and God, it even seeks to destroy the mind and the ability to speak. By deconstructing language, using word games and fake conundrums that any Thomist can see through a mile away, Quine makes logic impossible and pointless. Some of his notions were truly insane and stupid. Thomistic logic is far superior (nor are Thomists averse to formal logic).

      Quine's method cannot be applied to Thomism because it rejects its terms, matter and purpose. Much of his approach seems very primitive when compared with that of Aquinas. The only certainty in the analytic method is that clarity is impossible because of its beliefs.

      Perhaps you should call yourself a philo-Thomist.

    8. Quine is not the embodiment of analytic philosophy. Quine was one analytic philosopher. As I said, an analytic philosopher can be a thomist, a neoplatonist, a materialist, an idealist, or an atheist eliminativist.

      Quine was an analytic philosopher; so is William Lane Craig. And Plantinga. But also John Joseph Haldane, and Robert Koons, and Alexander Pruss.

      Analytic philosophy is a method and a style, as I described it. Certainly this is what is meant by analytical thomists. Not quinean philosophy, lol.

      So no, continental philosophy is not closer to thomism. It is very distant from it. Anglo-American philosophy is the one tradition that kept the concern for clear arguments and logical rigour from the Scholastics, which is why Thomism, as well as Aristotelianism and other ur-platonist traditions, has relevant followings among some of the greatest analytic philosophers. And why analytical thomism is an actual thing. The Continentals, by contrast, are much more focused on phenomenology; marxism; post-modernism; Kantianism and Hegelianism and the like. When they interact with Thomism, it is usually in ways that glance over the Angelic Doctor's most important metaphysical and theological views.

      Let's be clear: analytic philosophy today - that which is the common style and tradition weaving John Haldane, Robert Koons, Alex Pruss, Eleonore Stump, etc. together with Daniel Dennett, Thomas Nagel, Graham Oppy and others, is not Quinean metaphysics. It is not Russellianism either.

      Analytic philosophy is simply a method that favors a focus on explicit argumentation; clarity of language; precision of terms; rigorous logic, including keeping up with the developments in modern logic and in modal logic. It does not dictate any particular metaphysical view. You could be an analytic platonist, thomist, or humean or spinozist or quinean, etc.

    9. The only common factor in analytic philosophy seems to be a rejection of the "concerns" of continental philosophy, some of which you've mentioned. Apart from this, there's not a great deal in the way of intellectual rigor or clarity to unite it. You admit that Quine is an analytical philosopher, yet his method is the opposite of clarity and rigor. Therefore, even an analytic "style" is neither here nor there when it comes to logic or truth. Yet we are expected to be weighed down by its intellectual baggage of falsehood, for it too has its "concerns" which are of no interest to Christianity which are in danger of being slipped into the "analytic-Thomist" potage while we're not looking!

      What we are dealing with is the emotionalism of the conservative mind, which "likes" so much that is dogmatic and traditional while being incapable of embodying it. Conservatism is evolutionary and determined by history, as Karl Mannheim pointed out. Hence its dislike of dogmatic continental philosophy with its a priori beliefs. Again, continental philosophy is closer to the Thomistic and Christian mentality on that point; its generally dogmatic character when compared with Anglo-philosophy and conservatism. It's the old problem: revolutionary dogmatists want to burn down Gothic churches while conservatives want to preserve them, but only as they understand them - which is the death of the religion that produced those monuments. Again - liking something is not being something, especially if one has invented what one has decided to like.

      I'm afraid your characterisation of analytic philosophy as favouring explicit argumentation and clarity of language fails with great practitioners like Quine and Scruton. Their meanderings force me to conclude that any success in landing on truth in the others you have listed is due mainly to their affective leanings or background, not intellectual rigor attributable to analytic philosophy.

  13. I don't think it's minor. The belief that philosophy can be discussed without appealing to theology is alien to the Thomistic method.

    The concerns of notable analytical philosophers seem largely opposed to the faith, which would put them outside the category of men like Aristotle, whose achievements could be integrated by Aquinas. They would be grouped with other erroneous opponents of the Church, to be debated, converted and otherwise assisted.
    Their grasp of reality (which threatens their sanity in the case of certain opinions on language) and logic don't seem to be what's required for a healthy Thomism in the twenty-first-century.

    As your example on Apologetics and Protestants shows, you also consider Analytical philosophy to be other. The expression Analytic Thomism begs more than one question and it risks ending up like that two-headed animal sideshow in Doctor Dolittle's Circus.

    1. That is a valid opinion you have, but before you get to God you need to lay the groundwork to make belief in God possible. So I would see Analytical Thomism as useful in that regard but ultimately I prefer Traditional Thomism at best and Neo Scholastic Thomism at worst.


    2. I think the average man with no philosophical or ideological substratum tainted by modern currents like analytical philosophy already has more of the groundwork necessary for faith than the victims of those currents.

      Saying that the Faith is preceded by reason doesn't mean any reason or philosophy will do, or even assist.

      In the case of analytical philosophy, even of the "counter-Enlightenment" type, we are faced with thinkers who are prevented from embracing the Faith because their philosophy CAN'T provide the necessary framework. It's understandable that Thomists and Catholics in general might be charmed by philosophers who, instead of joining in academia's call for our lynching, hit back at atheism and sympathise with religion and traditional values.

      However, the real basis for this is conservative ideology, which can easily overlap something like analytical philosophy and other points of view. It made possible someone like de Maistre, who spent his whole life talking about God, the Church and dogma without believing in any of these things as Catholics do. They were instead considered to be expressions of his broader philosophy.

      Conservatism has become a subject which can no longer be ignored, especially by US Catholics, many of whom are in lock step out of the Church because of it. The Faith has indeed been under attack from revolutionary ideologies since the Enlightenment. What has gone completely under the radar is the extent to which allowing conservatives to take charge of the "defence" of religion has damaged the faith. Scruton's Soul of the World and The Face of God contain the best expression of conservative arguments for the necessity of religion you will see anywhere, yet nowhere is there groundwork for belief in God or any dogma. On the contrary; any such groundwork is systematically destroyed by the whole philosophical basis of the works.

      These views, while providing providing arguments in the Enlightenment forum for conserving religion, are dangerous to the faith of believers. It's notorious that the vast majority of conservative leaders today and historically have been men of no faith (or very heterodox). What is less understood is the effect on ordinary people participating in such movements. I fear that the Ciceronian advice of not informing the ignorant plebs of the falseness of their religion (while insisting on its necessity) has not been followed. Being led by people who don't believe that the dogmas, rituals and terms of religion mean what they are intended to mean has had an inevitable effect upon believers. The Soul of the World is quite dogmatic about the utterly non-religious meanings of terms like God, faith, soul, grace etc. It makes continued religious practice unsustainable in the true sense for any believer who takes it seriously.

      If we're to have a dialogue with something else, it's not necessary to hyphenate ourselves with that other, and of no help to them. Why should we define ourselves by relation to dangerous ideologies?

    3. Miguel, you write: Scruton's Soul of the World and The Face of God contain the best expression of conservative arguments for the necessity of religion you will see anywhere...
      But in fact the only argument for the necessity of religion is the existence of God. And Scruton can't say. So his arguments cannot be the best expression! Scruton's two books on religion are like early 20th century speculation about a jungle world existing under the Venusian clouds - he was personally too remote from his topic. If he went to Church (don't know) he probably admired the candles, the stained glass windows and the organ music.

      Please don't promote Scruton as some sort of conservative expert on religion. There must be someone else.....

    4. He did express the best arguments that conservatism has provided for the necessity of religion. Of course there are other, better reasons as you say. The existence of God however, doesn't necessarily lead to religion, as Aristotle's lack thereof demonstrated. The greatest argument for religion, and the reason it has existed historically, is God speaking to man through the miracle of revelation.

      Unfortunately, Roger Scruton's handling of religion was typical of conservatism in both its Anglo and European versions, which is why I think it has been so damaging over time. Conservatism as a recognised ideology arose in reaction to the French revolution but defended ideas and systems that were quite recent at the time. This is why a million years of conservatism will not bring us the Christian society free from ideology that preceded those ideas and systems. Do we want a society based upon Christian principles, or is our purpose merely to defend the naturalist ideologies and society of the eighteenth-century against its competitors?

    5. But the problem is that Thomism has no more intellectual credibility than young-earth creationism or geocentrism, things which would be very nice for the Church if they were true, but unfortunately they are not. Yes, it does a fine job of refuting materialism and atheism. But when pressed on issues like predestination or the non-necessity of the created world it simply responds by denying modal logic, which is common sense in terms of how to view possibility and actuality. (Yes, I've had a gazillion conversations with Thomists on these issues and it always ends up the same.) So it simply ends by denying reality in its own way and fares no better, in the end, than many of its competitors.

      Your response of course will be exactly like that of the fundamentalist Protestant confronted with the evidence for an old earth, with "analytic philosophy" substituted for "science".

    6. It is no more unfortunate for the Church that the universe is not geocentric or young than if it turned out to be shaped like the Easter Bunny.

      You won't have to worry about arguing with me about Thomism because I'm not here to debate non-Catholics or opponents of Thomism. The point I made about Analytic philosophy and Scruton is precisely that they do not tally with Thomism or the Faith, and you seem to agree. The future of the world depends on what Catholics think, not what goes on in the heads of atheists. While we hope for all non-Catholics to see the light, the first priority is for the Christians to be the salt of the earth. Our disputes may seem arcane to you, but once we've sorted out the naturalism and other ideologies that stifle the Faith, we'll get you up to speed quick smart.

    7. "But the problem is that Thomism has no more intellectual credibility than young-earth creationism"

      Wow, GoneFishing is really ignorant. Good luck to whoever thinks it's worth engaging him.

    8. Miguel and Atno,

      Yeah well, go pound sand then. You're not really willing to have any debate about a "healthy 21st century Thomism" and entertain the possibility that the reason Thomism is moribund is because some of what it says is just plain wrong or absurd. In fact this was obviously the case a long time ago and the only way the Church could get it back is to simply impose it by force, which naturally provoked a backlash. How you intend to convert anyone without such debate is beyond me, but anyway.

      But, if you do want to be the "salt of the earth", and you think the future of the world depends on what you think, then the first thing you need to do is to be intellectually honest and respect the truth. But you don't even bother to honestly address what I wrote, resorting to the usual m.o. of calling me "ignorant".

      Anyway, you want to know a good reason for many of the problems in the Catholic world? Look in the mirror.

      So, you won't succeed in sorting anything out and will of course blame your failures on some "conspiracy" or other.

    9. GF

      It is self evident to all you don't understand philosophy or Thomism or rational thinking in general.

      You are one of those boring idiots who would rather debate politics specifically leftist politics than anything of substance. Nobody here is interested genius. You have nothing to say and it is self evident you don't understand the topic at hand.

      Yer performance to day is to make vague criticism of Thomism's ability to convince the rational intellect but you don't actually take on any arguments or formulate any philosophical defeaters.

      It is self evident you don't even understand the difference between metaphysical time vs Spacetime.

      You have no business debating A Theory vs B Theory or the act/potency distinction or even Modal logic.

      Yer a ponce. Now away and boil ye heed.

      Wee Wanker.

    10. Gone fishing, I didn't say you were ignorant. Any mistakes in thirteenth-century Thomism will not be resolved by adding more from analytical-philosophy. Such confusion is just another example of the kind of thing that makes the Church less comprehensible to non-Catholics. The only way to influence them is to be very clear about what the Faith is and when I said that what Catholics think is the most important thing, I include myself. We all have to be clear on this and not follow the ideologies on offer. I think that's the main debate these days, and not wanting to have arguments with you doesn't imply that I think you worthless or an enemy. When it comes to religion, the Church is the only show in town and once it gets it act together - as it always does - you will have the answers to most of your questions.

    11. Gone Fishing, I don't know who you are, but what you said there truly was a demonstration of monumental ignorance. Thomism is a serious school of philosophy that is taken seriously by academics in the relevant fields; that has included many brilliant thinkers in metaphysics, political philosophy, ethics, philosophy of religion, logic; and that has influenced many great scholars and academics (both theists and non-theists), just like how Aristotelian philosophy did.

      It's not something that one can "simply refute" either (this is almost never the case in these issues, anyway), as it is concerned with explanations for underlying meta-questions (what really are substances? What can we say of entities described in science beyond the mathematical quantifications? What is the nature of causation? How can we best make sense of ethical action? What is the correct epistemology? What are propositions or abstract facts? Etc). In this, it competes with other philosophical traditions that are also widely respected.

      Saying that it "has no more intellectual credibility than YEC" really is just a demonstration of complete ignorance. This was honestly embarrassing to read, which is why I had to respond. You don't have to agree with thomists; you could in principle reject all of it, just like how I reject Humeanism, or coherentism, or David Lewis's extreme modal realism or whatever. But to say it has no intellectual credibility, that it's on YEC's level, etc., that just tells me that you really have no idea of what you're talking about, or you're just an edgy, stupid troll. You're writing sheer lunacy and it's just embarrassing.

  14. So Ed, what's the absolute minimum condition we need for a concept of time? Change alone? The addition of an observer to note and (somehow) record the change?

    (You don't have to reply. I'll catch up on the reading ... a little due diligence.)

    If we just say "it changed" without reference to a matrix of other noted changes is "time" necessarily implied?

    What about a living observer enclosed and protected within a "bathysphere" that penetrates an environment at absolute (or near to it) zero. Is there time outside the capsule? What would such a state of affairs look like from a block theory perspective?

    I have no real idea. I am still trying to figure out the implications for our natural/psychological sense of time, or the "past" if we could see behind us as we moved forward [the past reduced to the passed]; or if we registered events as they happened rather than milliseconds later.

  15. While I would agree that the B-theory would imply no change, strictly speaking, I don't think it would entail no potentiality or no efficient causation.

    First, efficient causation is still present in a B-theory, because even if instants t1 and t2 both exist equally, it is what happens at t1 that causes what happens at t2 to exist. In other words, since causation can be synchronic, and even completely atemporal (as God causing angels to exist), there is no problem in saying that an instant causes another, even if both exist.

    Potentiality is also still present because, although the banana at t3 is brown, it is only contingently brown at t3. Meaning that in another possible world it would have been yellow at t3 (if for example I had choose to put limon juice on it in order to prevent it from turning brown). So even if the banana is eternally brown at t3, so to speak, its capacity to be not-brown at t3 is still present. It is just that this capacity is not actualized in this world

    Finally, I think that only a B-theory of time can preserve fee will while at the same time acknowledging the fact that propsitions about the future have a determinate thruth value. In your book Aristotle's Revenge, you respond to the argument of truth making (according to which propositions about the past and the future can be true only if the past and the future are real) by saying that what makes propositions about the past and the future true are simply facts. So for example, the proposition that "the sun will die" is true because of the fact that the sun will die, and not because the event of the sun dying in the future actually exists. But this answer is, I think, incompatible with free will. Indeed, since the fact that the sun will die exists now, we should ask: what makes this fact a fact? I would say that it is the future event of the sun dying. But if presentism is true, then the future cannot cause what is present. Then the present fact that the sun will die is not true because of the future event of the sun dying. But then, it seems, the event of the sun dying is predetermined: Indeed, there must be a kind of causal relation (or at least some sort of relation of determination in a broad sense) between the fact and the event. It is not plausible that the fact and the event are totally independent or separable. So if the event of the sun dying doesn't cause or ground the fact that the sun will die, it must be the other way around: the fact that the sun will die causes, grounds, or determines in some way the event of the sun dying. Since the fact that the sun will die exists now, and determines the future event of the sun dying, then the event of the sun dying is predetermined. And this will be true for all fact/event couples: the event of me choosing to commit such and such action in the future is predetermined by the present fact that I will choose to commit this action. Free will then doesn't exist.

    In a B-theory, however, free will is preserved: the event of me choosing this action in the future is the ground of the fact that I will choose it. And even if this event already exists in the future, it is not a necessary consequence from things or events that come before it. It is therefore not predetermined.

    1. zui, I don't think future tense statements about conditionals ARE true in any simple sense. They assert something that neither IS true (as in, true now) nor WERE true in the past, and the future state of affairs that they predict is a state that lacks reality sufficient to support that the proposition IS true. It's not merely an epistemological problem (that of knowing whether the prediction will be true, it's an ontological problem. "True" can only be said of it in a loose, extended, or qualified sense.

      But perhaps you meant "the sun will die" to be an example of a non-contingent (i.e. necessary) proposition. If so, please try for a better one: the sun itself is a contingent being (it need not ever have come into being), and God can either (a) annihilate it by de-creating it (i.e. cease to sustain it's being) or choose to keep it in being without dying. (The presumptive stance of the Garden of Eden and the Fall is that man would not die if there had been no sin - arguably, God would have brought man into heaven without death, as (apparently) happened with Enoch and Elijah.) Neither option represents what would properly be characterized as the sun "dying".

      The better form of the issue you take up is a proposition about the past. Presentists agree that only presently existing things are REAL in the proper sense of the word (excepting God for the moment), but propositions about both present things and past things are TRUE in a way that propositions of future contingent events are not true - even if the future event happens to occur just in the way the proposition indicated. At 8:00 am, the proposition "my clock hands are at 8 o'clock" and "my clock hands were at 7:45" are both true in a way that is not applicable to the proposition "my clock hands will be at 8:15". Even if I wait until 8:20 and then reflect back at the 8:00 assertion "my clock hands will be at 8:15" I cannot claim that the proposition was (at 8:00) "true" in the same sense that the other two propositions were true. The fact-ness of "facts" that counts as truth-maker (if you want to credit the theory of "factmaker" at all, which I am leery of) applies properly to present and past contingents that were or are real, not to future contingents.

    2. I agree with Tony.

      Zui wrote: "the B-theory would imply no change, strictly speaking, I don't think it would entail no potentiality or no efficient causation."

      By definition it would.

      Who is arguing that the concept of freewill applies to inanimate matter?

    3. You are assuming the A theory in arguing for the B theory, and the mechanism that does the work is the expression "in some other universe".

    4. @Tony, I think that was a very fine explanation, and reply to Zui.

    5. Tony,
      What do you do with prophecies in the Bible? They seem like assertives rather than any other type of speech act (directives, expressives etc.) i.e. they are the type of speech act that can be true or false. And surely divine prophecies are true.

    6. Tony,
      The idea that propositions about the future are neither true nor false goes against the law of excluded middle, which is one of the three first principles with the principle of contradiction and the principle of identity. Denying this principle implies a relativisation of truth and, in the end, a total loss of truth. And there is no reason why only propositions about the future should be exempted from this principle. The proposition "God exists", for example, could then also be neither true nor false.

      Furthermore, the idea that propositions about the future are neither true nor false goes also against the idea that God is omniscient. If God knows that my clock hands will be at 8:15, then it is true now that my clock hands will be at 8:15.

      T N,
      Absence of change does not necessarily entail no potentiality or no efficient causation, because potentiality and efficient causation can exist without change. For example, angels have potentiality in them and are caused by God, but they are atemporal. The causation of angels by God is not a change, but simply a relation of dependence. And the potentiality of the angelic essence is simply the contingency of this essence (i.e. this essence can be existent and can be non-existent).

      I didn't apply the concept of freewill to inanimate matter. I took the proposition "the sun will die" to explain my logic but then, as you can read near the end of my message, I applied the same logic to propositions about free choices. If you want, you can just replace "the sun will die" in my message with a true proposition (i.e. assumed as true for the sake of the argument) about a free choice (for example "Peter will eat an apple tomorrow") and my same argument follows.

      The expression "in some other universe" doesn't assume the A-theory, for a simple reason: eternity is not the same as necessity. So while the B-theorist is committed to the affirmation that all instants exist equally, and that therefore all instants exist eternally, the B-theorist is not committed to the affirmation that instants exist necessarily. So the B-theorist can very well say that all things exist eternally while at the same time saying that there are other possible worlds that do not exist, but that could exist if this world didn't exist.

    7. Zui,

      Okay, I want to consider this further and maybe I'll get back to you at some time in the future.

    8. The idea that propositions about the future are neither true nor false goes against the law of excluded middle,

      As I understand it, invoking here the law of the excluded middle may be question-begging. The typical definition of "statement" in the law regards sentences that are capable of being true or false, and it is just the issue whether statements of future contingents have the capacity to be true or false RIGHT NOW.

      There are lots of sentences that not true simply nor false simply, and therefore fail to be statements that "are capable of being true or false" (simply). Here's one: "Coffee is better than tea". Here's why it is not capable of being true simply or false simply: the criteria of "better" is not well-defined. Coffee might be better at causing stains, or worse at killing bacteria, or better at dissolving certain salts, etc. Neither true simply, nor false simply.

      The statement "I will go to bed tonight" is written in the English language, and it uses as its verb-form the future tense. This is because my going-to-bed is NOT YET a fact. It may become a fact in the future, but the reason God knows the answer to the question of "will I go to bed" is not because God knows the FACT which we don't know, it's because God knows the future, which does not yet exist. Assuming that the sentence must be capable of being true or false simply assumes that it must be a fact because God knows it. But that simply assumes a B-like theory of facts and knowledge, which begs the question.

      If we can ditch tensed language, we may be able to express a sentence-like assertion about a future event that doesn't depend on the particular nature of the future tense. Until we have that non-tensed language, though, and until we have settled the A-theory vs B-theory definitively, we have to allow for the possibility that the future is not (yet) factual, and therefore sentences about it may not be capable of being true or false (simply).

      (I am reminded of a point one of my math teachers made - a great many years ago. In trying to hammer home probability theory, he set up this experiment: "I am going to flip this 'fair' coin: what are the probabilities of landing heads up?" Everyone answered "50%". Good. He flipped the coin, and immediately covered it with an object, and asks again: "Now what is the probability it has landed heads up?" Everyone said "50%". He said "No, it is either 0% or 100%, we just don't happen to know which one. We don't need to do anything to the coin to resolve the uncertainty, only to our knowledge." He was pointing to an ontological difference between the future and the present. It's not merely an epistemological difference.)

      I would offer that we may wink and not at the imprecision of sentences that are true-in-a-way but not exactly proper, when they are used of God, but rightly balk at them when used about others. If we say something like "God, in His one act, has already caused all that occurs", we recognize that it is roughly speaking true, in a limited way because human language is insufficient to the task. But if we go on to then say "God has already brought about my going to bed later today, we have to balk at this way of using language, in that my going to bed is a future contingent that is not yet real and is not yet a FACT. That is, it is (in some mysterious way) true-in-a-sense on God's end of the sentence, and not-true-in-some-other-sense on the creaturely end of the sentence.

    9. "The idea that propositions about the future are neither true nor false goes against the law of excluded middle, which is one of the three first principles with the principle of contradiction and the principle of identity. Denying this principle implies a relativisation of truth and, in the end, a total loss of truth."

      Whatever one thinks of the status of excluded middle, this is an exaggeration, to put it mildly. Throwing it out is commonly done in certain branches of mathematics and the result has been exactly the opposite of the sketched apocalyptic scenario (e.g. fruitful and important mathematics), and it is done even by people that are thoroughly committed classical mathematicians.

    10. As a bridge player who makes probability decisions regarding events that have already taken place, I think that your analysis is wrong, Tony. On a particular hand, I may have to decide to play in a way which works if the diamonds have broken 3-2 (a priori odds 68%) or play for the finesse (a prior odds 50%). The correct play, lacking other information, is to play for the 3-2 break. If I can look at their cards, probability no longer is relevant. Lacking that epistemological viewpoint, I use probability to maximize my likelihood of taking the right course. God has equal epistemological access to events future, present, and past, so there is no event that has a 50% probability relative to God.

    11. Perhaps Tony’s Math teacher made a philosophical mistake? Probability’s existence is always conditional on our lack of complete knowledge (eg how the wind, gravity, design on coin’s surface, and many factors combined in causing the outcome of a flipping a coin). Probability does not seem to exist ontologically. That means even the God of Open Theism would know the outcome when a coin has been flipped on the basis of knowing how all relevant factors’ nett causal effect on the coin’s landing.

      So as long as the students do not know how the coin has actually landed, they are right in not saying it is 0% or 100% chance that the coin would turn up to be head/tail. Probability is relative to their epistemic limitation, regardless of whether the coin has already landed.

    12. Reasonable,
      You and I agree on the nature of probability. Many forms of poker also include estimation of probabilities concerning events that have already happened (cards having been dealt). The infamous Monte Hall trap (in Bridge, this is known as the principle of restricted choice and is used frequently to evaluate different lines of play) is another example.

    13. Reasonable and Tim, there is no problem with using probability theory on the epistemic problem of not knowing what cards have been dealt. That probability theory works for it does not speak to the point of my professor.

      I would suggest that your position reduces to B-theory, and fairly directly. If God knows I will go to bed at 11:43pm, because he has already caused it to occur, then that implies either (a) since he has caused it, then I do not cause it when I seem to decide to go to bed, (i.e. occassionalism), or (b) he has already caused me to cause myself to go to bed, even though I don't SEEM to have caused myself to go to bed - because the causing and the event "already" exist in the future time-line of events, which is just what B-theory asserts.

      While I grant that this has attractive benefits for understanding how God can know everything, it is still begging the question whether A-theory or B-theory is the better account.

    14. Hi Tony,

      I do not subscribe to B-theory of time.

      In the case of the God of Open Theism (I am not Open Theist), while God knows the outcome of a coin-flip (because the Open Theism God knows perfectly the deterministic laws of macro Physics), God may not know the outcome of whether or not a person would sleep at 11:43pm or which of his fifty favourite dishes he would end up eating during the first week of Apr this year (if a person has free will).

      In the case of the God of Classical Theism, God would know everything that happens within time (whether it is A or B Theory of time) because God is outside time and would know in a single act all the events that are conditioned/constrained by time. This includes free will decisions which God does not cause, in the sense that the first cause of a human being’s free choice is that human being himself, not God. God knows the human person’s decision because God is outside time, knowing in a single act every event that is trapped within time.

      Hi Tim,

      Nice to know that we share this view on probability.



    15. God would know everything that happens within time (whether it is A or B Theory of time) because God is outside time and would know in a single act all the events that are conditioned/constrained by time.

      Yes, that's what I understand by it also. The question is, whether we account for God knowing future contingent events because he knows them as real facts that are already real or whether he knows them in spite of their being future contingents that are not yet real. B-theory wants to treat what, in the classical theism stands as a METAPHOR, as being the literal account: that the future is just as real as the past and present and God stands viewing them all from a different temporal angle, that is, one that is apart from the temporal dimension we inhabit. My point is that while this is one way of accounting for God's foreknowledge, it is question begging of B-theorists to assert that this represents the ONLY way to account for God's foreknowledge of the future, based on their treating the metaphor as the real.

    16. Tony,
      What your professor said about probability is, at the very least, begging the question. Probability theory is often understood as a theory concerning the likelihood of something, whether that something is present, past, or future. So what your professor said was begging the question.

    17. I should have said "epistemological likelihood."

    18. Tony, I think that God knows how we would exercise our free will (in addition to all other events) in our future even though those events are not yet actualised within time. So God knows them as facts even though those events are contingent and not yet actualised within time (ie future for all who are existing within time).



  16. If all potentials are already actual (eternalism) then the only thing that would exist is God.

  17. My general thought about B-theory is this: it hasn't got a prayer of being stated properly until someone comes up with a language that is without tense. Attempts to describe it in language in which all of its conceptual framework is embedded in the ordinary human experience of before and after and tenses, is likely to remain inherently flawed - at very best, only a rough metaphor for what is needed, and unfortunately, with the "other side" of the metaphor being something outside of human experience and therefore not available for us to capture the likeness the metaphor alludes to. "An elephant is just like a snarglenforbic" is unlikely to be enlightening since we have no clue what a snarglenforbic is.

    So, while I recognize that A-theory has some uncomfortable commitments, it remains (for now) the theory that can at least be explained decently. Ultimately, I suspect that some bright genius will come up with a way of bridging the divide and derive some A- or B+ theory that partakes of each in some (unguessed at) way, and I freely admit I have no clue what it would be. But at least this much: I suspect presentists could listen to some sort of B-like theory if it were to somehow privilege the "now" without blowing fuses. Is there ANY way a B-theory can privilege the now ontologically without giving up all aspects of B-theory?

  18. Tony and Ed,
    The concept that predictions (assertives concerning the future) are neither true nor false fits very well with an open theist perspective where God does not know the future because the future is open. I am not an open theist, I know that Ed is not, and I suspect that Tony is not either. I prefer an analysis where assertions/propositions about the future are true or false but that there is an epistemological difference for humans (but not for God) in propositions about the future compared to propositions about the present or past.

    1. Perhaps even for the God of Classical Theism, a future contingent phenomenon can still be neither true nor false in this sense: God knows that WITH RESPECT TO 1998, the global financial crisis in 2008 is neither a true nor false event, but only a contingent event. The 2008 event is only a fact with respect to the “position” outside time.


  19. I want to comment, that if the B theory is correct, and all times in fact exist, then time travel into the past should be possible [maybe not for us, but still possible for an advanced enough technology]. But the desire for it to be true should not be a reason for concluding that it is.

  20. Are you claiming that all times exist NOW?

  21. Craig and Others have argued against God being timeless and eternal on the grounds a timeless God could not know what time it is now.

    But as Feser correctly pointed out God does not know time as if He was outside it looking in or observing it with divine senses. God knows what time it is now by knowing Himself as the cause of all things. God is the metacause of the future and God knows the future as He knows Himself as the cause of it when it becomes present.

    1. A question:

      Assuming that a human person has free will in deciding whether to take an action or not to do it, then this choice made by the person is not caused by God (only enabled by God). This human person would be the fundamental/first cause of his choice and his future choice is a contingent event uncaused by God even though his ability to make a choice is enabled by God.

      So is it correct to say that this human’s future contingent choice would not be known by God through the means of God causing that choice (because the first cause of that choice is not God but the human person)? Instead, God knows the human person’s future contingent free choices (future relative to a person’s position inside time - God exists without past or future) because God is not constrained within time, and from the position outside time God knows both past actualised free choices and future unactualised free choices which are constrained within time. Is this correct?

      If so, then God knows such contingent free choices uncaused by Him (only enabled by Him) but caused by each human person with free will not by being the cause of such free choices, but by knowing these time-constrained choices (both actualised past and unactualised future) from outside time. This knowing of free choices uncaused by God but caused by humans (using their free will) would be analogous to knowing via “observation of all past & future contingent free choices” IN A SINGLE ACT from outside time. (My assumption is that God enables but not causes those free choices made by humans).



      johannes y k hui ;)

    2. @reasonable

      Just a nitpick: God is a cause of free choices actually. He is not a efficient cause, of course, but He is a cause in the sense that is He that keeps you existing, letting you them will things. This is enough to know free choices.

      Is not the eletricity of a computer necessary if you want to send a email? In a sense them it is a cause of the email. I think than that is what thomists usually means when they say that God is the cause of stuff. Primary and secundary casuality and all that. We only will because God keeps us in being.

      Of course, God is also a cause of some things on the usual sense of the term(miracles, grace, the beggining of creation). I believe that thomists also see God as moving the will in a sense, but i admit that i don't get that very well.

    3. johannes

      You need to read up on the doctrine of premotion and divine concurrence.

      Jim the Scott aka Yachov Ben Yachov

    4. God is the cause of the freedom of yer will but God does not will on yer behalf but somehow He can cause you to freely will some saving Good.

      CATECHISM OF MOTION by Garrigou-Legrange
      1) Can God be the cause of free being?
      R. Most certainly: for otherwise He would not be Being.
      2) Can God be the cause of the created free action?
      R. Most certainly: for otherwise there would not be either action or free
      3) How can God be the cause of created free action, so that the action of the
      creature, however, is truly elicited by it?
      R. By motion.
      4) What is motion?
      R. Motion is that activity by which I freely determine myself.
      5) Can it be called premotion?
      R. Certainly: because that by which I determine myself, that by which I
      actually exercise my liberty, is by nature prior to the exercise of my liberty; and
      yet it does not prevent my being free, but even causes me to be free.
      6) Is that activity or premotion something that is caused by God?
      R. I distinguish: as ens quo, I concede; as ens quod, I deny. For it is the
      subjection of the creature to God as regards action.
      7) Does God determine the will by causing this activity?
      R. I distinguish: He determines the will by taking away passive indifference,
      this I concede; by taking away active indifference, this I deny. This latter is even
      actually caused by this motion.
      8) Is this activity or premotion something determined?
      R. I distinguish: That it is determined as the principle of determination, as that
      by which I determine myself, this I concede; that it is determined, as the form
      which is the principle of action, as the impression received in the eye is the
      principle of vision, this I deny.
      9) Can this activity be said to be indifferent?
      R. I distinguish: That it is indifferent as the principle of indifference, or
      inasmuch as it causes this active indifference, this I concede; that it is indifferent
      as though needing a further determination, or as though the will under its
      influence is able not to act or to do something else, this again I subdistinguish: if this activity were not precisely that by which the will determinately chooses one
      particular thing, this I concede; if it is so, then I deny this or subdistinguish: in
      sensu diviso, I concede; in sensu composito, I deny.
      10) Under the influence of that activity or motion the will can act only in one
      way. Therefore active indifference is taken away from this motion.
      R. That the will when moved acts only in one way, this I concede; that it can
      act only in one way, I subdistinguish: because it is supposed by this activity
      already to have chosen freely one particular thing, this I concede; as though it
      does not always have the power of choosing something else, this I deny.

    5. Part II
      11) It is a contradiction in terms for God to determine the will to determine
      itself; for free determination must by its very nature originate from an intrinsic
      R. I distinguish: It is a contradiction for God to determine by introducing into
      the will some determination, namely, a determinate form, this I concede; by
      introducing that by which the will determines itself, this I deny. Nay rather, it is
      a contradiction in terms for the will to be able to be determined without a
      As for the reason adduced, I distinguish: that the determination, namely, the
      free act, must originate from an intrinsic principle, I concede; that by which the
      will determines itself, must so originate, this I deny. For just as that by which the
      will is constituted as such cannot originate from an intrinsic principle, so neither
      can that by which the will is constituted in act: it is absurd for the will to be able
      to produce some activity before it is constituted in act.
      12) That by which the will determines itself must be within its power.
      R. I distinguish: It must be within its power terminatively (the act, namely, to
      which the will determines itself), this I concede; it must be so formally, this I
      13) It follows therefore that the will stands in need of something which is not
      within its power, so that it may choose freely.
      R. Certainly: since for the will freely to act it itself needs to be a free faculty;
      and for it to be freely the principle of its act, it needs to be the principle of its act;
      and for it freely to exercise its active indifference, it needs to be actively
      indifferent. All these things are not within its power, and yet no one says that for
      this reason the will is not free.
      14) What is the cause of the determination cannot be said to be formally the previous determination. Therefore physical predetermination must be rejected.
      R. I distinguish: The cause of the determination cannot be said to be
      determination as a form determining or determined, this I concede; it cannot be
      said to be determination or motion determining, this I deny. I distinguish the
      consequent: Physical predetermination must be rejected if the term means that a
      determinate form is introduced by God into the faculty, this I concede; if the
      term means a motion determining and predetermining, then I deny it must be
      rejected. It is not a question of a name but of a thing. If one does not care for the
      name, give it up. Nevertheless a false meaning must not be attributed to those
      asserting such a doctrine, even granted that the name may be the occasion of
      false interpretation.

    6. Hi Talmid,

      Replying you first before I take my time over the next few days to read Jim/Ben Ya’Kov’s series of quotations. He took the trouble to reproduce them here.

      What you mentioned about God playing the part of being the non-efficient cause of a person’s free choices is all being labeled by me in my earlier comment as “free choices are ENABLED by God”. These are what I would label as “enablement”. After taking into account of all those enablement (or non-efficient causes) by God, there remain one part which God is not the cause, and a human person is the “first cause” of this particular part. Because of this part, the human person becomes truly responsible for his free choice (free choice is not random choice).

      So what I am saying is that when we talk about causes and effects, we may need to ask who/what is the first cause WITH RESPECT TO which aspect of an effect. Let me quote part of Thomist philosopher Dennis Bonnette’s example in an article he wrote on causation:

      “... imagine a surgical incision in the process of being cut. Since surgeons don’t make incisions with their fingers, a scalpel is needed – essentially to convert blunt motion into cutting motion. Since scalpels don’t normally do surgery by themselves, a hand is needed to move and direct the motion of the scalpel. And an arm is needed to move the hand. While this example is deliberately abbreviated, its initial elements are instructive.”

      “What does each contribute to the causal chain? The scalpel contributes sharpness, the hand contributes “holding the scalpel,” and the arm directs the hand. But none are called “intermediate” in virtue of what they contribute of their own nature or role in the series.”

      “With respect to what they contribute, they actually act as something of a “first cause,” since what they contribute, they originate for the process.”

      “Each intermediate cause entails two distinct aspects: something they contribute originally to the chain and for which they are something of a “first cause,” and, critically important, something that they do not contribute of their own nature, but which they merely pass on from a prior cause and for which they themselves are termed “intermediate causes.”



    7. Hi Ben Ya’Kov,

      I know you are aka Jim and that was why in my previous question to you I signed off as a Johannes with a ;) at the back, hehe.

      Thanks for taking the trouble to reproduce the series of quotes. I will need some days to read. His English expressions looks diffficult for me to understand.



    8. @reasonable

      Hi, man!

      What i'am saying is that when i that "i'am the cause of my choices" the word "cause" has not the sate meaning that when i say "God is the cause of my choices". This means that while there is no part of the free act that is not caused by God it is still a free act, for what God does do not interfere in the choosing. Rather, His role is necessary to have a free choice.

      So God can know my free acts because He is their cause in a sense but they are still caused by me in another sense, so free will has no problem here.

    9. Hihi Talmid :)

      I agree that God’s role is necessary in order for humans to make a free choice, in the sense that God’s role is enablement (at every moment) of the human being’s ability to make a free choice.

      As you said, while God causes a person’s free choice “in a sense” (I call this type of cause God’s enablement), there is “in another sense” that a person causes his own free choice. This cause which you described as “another sense” kind of cause is not caused by God. For this “another sense” kind of cause, it is only the human person who is the cause, the first cause.

      On a different topic: There does not seem to be a problem for God to know, from outside time, our future contingent choices even if God does not cause those type of future choices which we will decide in our future. From His position outside time, all our past and future choices constrained inside time is laid bare for Him to “see” in One Single Act of His knowing, even though our future choices are not yet actualised by us at this point in time.

    10. I agree that God is not the cause of our choices in "another sense", but i think that His enablement is enough to Him to know the choices.

      Also, is not your view the one Boethius defends? It seems a interesting view to me, though it will probably no be acceptable to most thomists, for in this view God is really related to the world.


    11. Hi Talmid,

      I have not read Boethius’ explanation of foreknowledge and free will. What I proposed is independent of Boethius.

      In your view, is there anything incoherent about God having the ability to “observe” your time-constrained future free contingent choices through His One Single Act of knowing from outside time? If yes, what is incoherent about it?

      I think what I labeled as God knowing future contingents via “observation” (in an analogous sense) is similar to Aquinas’ view about God knowing future contingents via “knowledge of vision”. See Aquinas’ elaboration below:

      “Whatever therefore can be made, or thought, or said by the creature, as also whatever He Himself can do, all are known to God, although they are not actual. And in so far it can be said that He has knowledge even of things that are not. Now a certain difference is to be noted in the consideration of those things that are not actual. For though some of them may not be in act now, still they were, or they will be; and God is said to know all these with the KNOWLEDGE OF VISION: for since God’s act of understanding, which is His being, is measured by eternity; and since eternity is without succession, comprehending all time, the present GLANCE OF GOD extends over all time, and to all things which exist in any time, as to objects present to Him.”
      - Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, trans. Fr. Laurence Shapcote, O.P. (Lander, Wyoming: The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, 2012), Ia.14.9.

      Summary of Aquinas’ text quoted above:

      All events constrained inside time, from all past events to all future events relative to us now, be it necessary events or contingent events, are present to the GLANCE or VISION of God from outside time.

      Hence Aquinas wrote about God knowing events via something analogous to “observation” (“Glance” or “Vision” of God) even though Aquinas also wrote about God knowing events via His causation (or enablement?) role. Of course given divine simplicity, ultimately these two modes of knowing are actually one.

      It seems like we should not dismiss the aspect of God knowing via “observation” (analogical language).



      johannes y k hui

    12. Hi Son of Ya’Kov,

      I think what I labeled as God knowing future contingents via “observation” (in an analogous sense) is similar to Aquinas’ view about God knowing future contingents via “knowledge of VISION” or divine “GLANCE” of all past, present and future events. See Aquinas’ elaboration below:

      “Whatever therefore can be made, or thought, or said by the creature, as also whatever He Himself can do, all are known to God, although they are not actual. And in so far it can be said that He has knowledge even of things that are not. Now a certain difference is to be noted in the consideration of those things that are not actual. For though some of them may not be in act now, still they were [ie past events], or they will be [ie future events]; and God is said to know all these with the KNOWLEDGE OF VISION: for since God’s act of understanding, which is His being, is measured by eternity; and since eternity is without succession, comprehending all time, the present GLANCE OF GOD extends over all time, and to all things which exist in any time, as to objects present to Him.”
      - Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, trans. Fr. Laurence Shapcote, O.P. (Lander, Wyoming: The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, 2012), Ia.14.9.

      Summary of Aquinas’ text quoted above:

      All events constrained inside time, from all past events to all future events relative to us now, be it necessary events or contingent events, are present to the GLANCE or VISION of God from outside time.

      So as you would probably know, Aquinas wrote about God knowing events via something analogous to “observation” (“Glance” or “Vision” of God) even though Aquinas also wrote about God knowing events via His causation role. Of course given divine simplicity, ultimately these two modes of knowing are actually one.

      Hence according to Aquinas, there is this aspect of GOD knowing all events inside time via “observation” (analogical language) from His position outside time, AS IF He is outside time looking in or observing with divine sense (“as if” is important). Of course I may be wrong and hence feel free to correct my errors.

      Again, given divine simplicity, ultimately these two modes of knowing (via “observation” and via “causation”/“enablement”) are actually one.



      johannes y k hui

    13. That quote is a pretty interesting finding, i admit that did not remember it.

      And i'am not sure if i accept your view or not, Johannes, for i'am still working out my view on Divine Simplicity. I feel like Aquinas view is too extreme and that i should defend a weaker DS, but i feel like i should study a bit more on that.

      If i end up not accepting Aquinas view on DS them your view would work out fine. If i end up with Aquinas view them your view would be a problem, for the saint defended that God has no real relation with the world, so i suppose that it would contradict your view.

    14. Hi Talmid,

      What I suggested does not seem to contradict the idea that God has no real relation with the world. And Aquinas’ idea of God knowing all events via His “Knowledge of Vision” or divine Glance would also not contradict his idea of Divine Simplicity.



    15. Maybe i just read you saying that God "observes" all time at once in a too literal way, my bad.

  22. part III
    15) Does the motion determine the will, or does it make the will determine
    R. It is in any case both. For God determines the will by giving it that by
    which it determines itself.
    16) Can the will under the influence of this motion determine itself otherwise
    than God wills?
    R. Yes: in just the same way as the will, when it wills, can determine itself
    otherwise than it wills.
    17) It is contrary to the notion of liberty for any external agent to make me
    will what it may please this agent to will.
    R. I distinguish: Unless such be the power of such an agent that it gives the
    will that by which it wills freely, then I concede the assertion; if the agent gives
    the will that by which the will chooses freely, namely, the motion, then I deny
    the assertion. Certainly there can be no conception of liberty without motion.
    Hence the argument is reversed.
    18) That God should decide my choice is unintelligible.
    R. That God should decide my choice without giving me the principle of
    choosing, namely, motion, this I concede; if He does so, then I deny the
    assertion. We confess, however, that this is beyond the power of imagination;
    wherefore he who, as St. Thomas says, wishes to reduce intelligible things to
    sense perception, never will be able to understand motion.
    19) What is meant by saying that God eternally predetermined my act?
    R. It does not mean that God predestined or preformed the act that must be
    mine, so that afterwards somehow He imitates it in me; but it means that God, as
    the cause of free being, eternally decided to imbue me with that activity by
    which I am able to actuate or exercise my liberty, as He decided to move a
    necessary being to perform necessary acts. In such predefining or
    predetermining He most certainly knew that my act would be elicited freely by me.
    20) Can God foresee my free act before He foresees the motion?
    R. It is absolutely impossible. To foresee my act before foreseeing the motion
    would be like foreseeing the act of my will before the will itself is foreseen:
    which is absurd. The will is in act only by being moved.

  23. 21) If God were to foresee my act before He foresees the motion, would my
    act be free?
    R. Not at all. Before God foresees the motion, He can foresee my act only as
    possible; because, before being moved, the will is not at all determined to one
    thing rather than another; and if it is determined, it is no longer free but
    necessary, for evidently the determination in which liberty has no part is
    necessary by natural necessity.
    22) Can free will be retained by not admitting motion?
    R. Not at all, philosophically speaking. For if, before the exercise of my
    liberty or of that which implies such exercise (which is motion) my act is
    supposed to be determined to one thing rather than another, evidently my act is
    one of necessity. Therefore, motion not admitted, the logical outcome is
    In conclusion we must say that the whole explanation of the difficulty in
    reconciling the divine motion with free will seems to proceed from a false notion
    of divine motion. For the divine action is conceived as being like created action.
    God, however, and the free will are conceived as two coordinated causes
    operating to produce the one effect. Once this view is taken, there is no
    possibility of any rational solution of the problem. Either free will is denied or
    else the divine action. It follows as a consequence of this that both are denied.
    But, on the contrary, in the doctrine of St. Thomas, God and the free will are
    simply subordinated causes. The entire action is from God and also from the free
    will; and it is entirely from the free will because it is entirely from God. To
    withdraw the free will from the influence of the divine action is the same as to
    withdraw it from its own activity, and this is therefore the same as to destroy it.
    The divine motion, however, is precisely that by which the free will is subjected
    to the divine action that it may be constituted in act.
    But no created intellect can by its own power acquire a knowledge of the
    divine action as it is in itself. Wherefore the obscurity in this doctrine is an
    argument in favor of its truth. Whereas in the other opinions the difficulty is
    fundamentally removed—for God would be acting only in a human and created
    way—yet those of the opposing camp have to contend with inexplicable
    difficulties and even absurdities in explaining, namely, how the free will and the
    divine foreknowledge are to be reconciled. And these difficulties or absurdities
    strike at faith itself when from the divine the transfer is made in a natural way to
    supernatural motion, or to grace.
    So ends this manuscript.
    All the preceding discussion is tantamount to saying with Bossuet that “God
    eternally wills all the future use of free will as to all the goodness and reality
    there is in it. Nothing is more absurd than to say a thing does not exist because
    God does not will it. Must we not say, on the contrary, that it exists because God
    wills it? And just as it happens that we are free in virtue of the decree which
    wills us to be free, so it happens that we act freely in this or that act, even in
    virtue of the de-cree which extends to all this in detail.”
    Briefly then, what is more absurd than to claim that the actualization of liberty destroys it. END

  24. I would get Legrange's book on Predestination id I was you Johannas.

    Good stuff.