Friday, April 30, 2010

Eternity, Mawson's belief and Cantor's paradox

My answer to Tim Mawson's argument for God being timeless, which I've been writing for two years, is currently the following Google Doc (updated August 18): Eternity, Mawson's belief and Cantor's paradox. I defend Presentism under Anselmian theism, and use Cantor's paradox to argue that God is, if He exists, able to increase His knowledge, and hence is able to change, rather than being timeless (unless logic is even less standard than it is under Presentism); and since I also argue that, even so, He could be omniscient, in the usual sense of knowing all truths, I am also answering one of Patrick Grim's arguments against an omniscient being. And since Mawson's argument was directly against Open theism, given that we have Libertarian (agent-causal) freedom, so I am defending Open theism (specifically the second of Alan Rhoda's three varieties).


Anonymous said...

Hi Jonathan Speke Laudly here,
I like this line of thought:
If God is being, existence itself, then there is no gain nor loss either in God nor in the world--since the world is just forms of being. Being neither gains nor loses in being--no net loss nor gain----existence just is. The ice cream cone half eaten exists just as much as the full cone. The absence of the cone exists just as much as the presence. Change does not affect being--which always is just being, existence. Therefore God never changes--and since the world's substance is being, existence, the world has no gain nor loss either. Form in general continues to arise.
God is prior to particularity, prior to form, to things, gives rise to things, but is not a thing. God is rather that which gives rise to things.
Being is timeless--existence is timeless. If the whole universe were gone tomorrow---being must be for something to be gone, just as it must be for something to be here.
Existence is what all things are made of, in effect, and God is existence. Existence never ceases and in it there is no gain nor loss. It cannot be diminished nor augmented. In this way God is timeless.

Anonymous said...

Hi (enigMan here, too lazy to sign in today), thanks for the detailed thought. But I would question your starting point. Is God being itself? I would also question whether existence is timeless; but regarding the former, we can use "God" to name existence, but that does not seem to be what Jews, Christians and Muslims are doing, for the most part.

We take God to be a transcendent person, the original, metaphysically necessary being, who created everything else. Being is a property (or something like a property) had by all those other things, and which we may also attribute to God, bearing in mind that in some senses it does not apply to God. As we are to our daydreams (to which we contrast being), so God is to existence, except insofar as our use of language means that daydreams do not really exist (except as daydreams) and God does exist (although in a transcendent way, often indicated by capitalisation, so that God is a Being).

But furthermore, I would not presume to know that existence is timeless. Things change, even as they persist in being the same things. And they can come into and go out of existence. What exists is what exists now, at least under some theories of time. Julius Caeser did exist, but no longer does (unless he is a spirit). Your use of language, whilst common amongst some philosophers, is therefore quite uncommon. There is something timeless about tenseless talk, but do you have anything more than that behind your line of thought?

Consider the conservation of energy. Physicists have often thought of the net energy of the universe as a constant. It is like the world's substance, changing only its form. Suppose they are right, and let us call that net energy "God". Then we can say that God is constant, is timeless. But even so, God will be ever-changing, as its form changes. In this sense I agree with you: God (our God) is constant, in His essential nature. But that is quite compatible with His being able to create novel contingencies, such as the world, with there being gain and loss in the world, and even with there being important changes in God. Whereas your picture is of some abstracted existence that is completely atemporal (like the net energy of the universe in some cosmologies, or the spaciotemporal universe as a whole).

I agree that God is that which gives rise to things, such things as we are aware of, and that He is not one of their kind. But in what sense is existence prior to form? Is such stuff as dreams are made of prior to any dream, or does it exist (in some derived way) only when there is a dream? The dreamer is prior to the dream; and perhaps we are Ideas in the Mind of God. If so then we should distinguish between His Mind and His Ideas (and amongst those, between universals, counterfactuals, ordinary objects and so forth). His Mind is a Person, and Ideality is existence, and His Personhood is much greater than existence (for all that it exists).

Incidentally, you deny that God is a thing, but you say "It cannot be diminished" and so you refer to God as "it" and hence as a thing. I know what you mean; my point is just that language is like that, and similarly, when we say that God is a perfect person we are not saying that He is a thing (He may be a Trinity:)

In short, I am wondering why you like that line of thought, e.g. what you would make of it, and how you would defend it, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jonathan Speke Laudly here,
Thanks for your thoughtful reply-I enjoyed reading your vision of things. I clearly have different intuitions than you about God. I do not have an anthropomorphic notion of God.
My notion of God is not that of a "person" but more like that of
the Buddhist or Hindu or Sufi notion of being---pure being--being that is prior to specificity, prior to specific things yet giving rise to the world of specifics. The specifics world arises from being and returns to being, because, as you say, things come and go. But nonspecific being itself--that which is prior to specific things,
is untouched by change, and since time in my view is change---God is timeless, neither born nor dying.
God is existence, untouched by the material world, yet giving rise to it. I do not make a distinction, as you seem to do, between existence and being.
If the world, the universe, disappeared tomorrow---that which gave it rise---being, existence, would still exist.
Do you imagine that existence itself goes out of existence?
If there is a state of affairs such that existence does not exist-----this is a paradox, since for a state of affairs to exist, there must be existence!
So existence never ceases though
specific things---the world--may cease.
Yet if the world may cease and
existence remains and is unchanged though it gives rise to the world, then existence must be the essence of the world. And so the fundamental nature of things, of individuality, is being, since being is the fundament and there is no other. Being gives rise to the world out of its nature and its nature is not other than being, pure being--so what it gives rise to can be no other than being.
An apt Hindu metaphor is that the
world is like waves upon the sea of existence. The wave is never separate from the sea no matter how individual. Or world is like a multitude of vessels, all made of the same clay of being.
And so, the individual person is
not separate at anytime from the whole of being---and individual essence is being, existence--in form.
There is only one substance then.
That is, individuals, specific beings, are just as much universal nonspecific being. I find that notion very awesome to contemplate.
Form is emptiness and emptiness form--as is said in Zen.
Thus, God is transcendent, timeless existence, untouched by the waves of specificity, and all
the waves are also fundamentally being. It is one whole beautiful thing.
One may reply, well, if there is being but also form and being can have form or not have form--aren't these two different kinds of being and so there is not one whole thing but separation? Isn't being sans form and being with form two different things?
And I say this--that the next step in this presentation is to
drop all the notions. Why? Because existence and the world, consists of what? It consists of what shows up.
And that includes all conflicting and consonant notions all sense and mind, all in all as it arises
every moment. What else could the world be? And so the world outstrips any notion of it. And some notions are meant to bring one to the point where there is a realization that what existence is and what the world is, is that which appears every moment in front of your face-and includes your face!--all of it, notion and no notion, individuality and universality.
No fundamental difference, no separation.
( Yes, there is some resemblance to the Hegelian notion of all things resolving in the absolute)Ok, that is my best shot in this moment at conveying my take on God. Enjoyed it.

enigMan said...

Many thanks for that; your view reminds me a bit of how I read Aquinas, so I'm clearly misunderstanding something in this region of thought (or a bit beyond thought:)

I wasn't trying to distinguish between existence and being, so where I seemed to be I must just have been unclear. However, I do paradoxically distinguish between the external reality that includes us communicants (whatever it is made of), and the transcendent reality that includes the creator of that reality. The latter is to the former as a dreamer is to a dream. The latter is real, but He seems less real to some because He is not real in the same way; however, He is if anything more real. And He is like us a person (in my view), but again, perhaps it is also fair to say that He is not a person like us.

Perhaps, in your terms, by 'God' I mean something like the movement of the ocean caused by the moon (and perhaps there is no moon, or perhaps the moon in the object of the impossible desires of creatures:) which I believe to be the cause of all the other swells and waves (as the gusts and breezes of the wind are all caused by the motion of air from high to low pressure zones); although my God is a bit more like the Hindu idea of the cosmic dreamer, who alone is really real, with what we call 'existence' being really only a dream in comparison with His reality, although it is what we call 'real' (it is real)...

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jonathan Speke Laudly here,

Unless God is pure being which gives rise to all change but is untouched by change.
This would be the immanent and
transcendent God.
I think the issues you present in your blog are the most interesting of any Philosophy blog I have seen.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jonathan Speke Laudly here,
Thanks for your thoughful reply--

I think I am using the term existence differently than you.
For me, if the world-- the universe, disappears tomorrow existence still is. In other words,
existence does not depend upon the arising of specific things that exist.
Existence is prior to specific things.
Dream versus dreamer = unreal versus real. I agree with you in some way, and that is that if the world disappears tomorrow the significance of these world forms is diminished. After all, the significance of words and God and death and birth and love and human endevour has no significance outside this realm. ONce the world disappears where is meaning or nonmeaning or anything else? It is gone!
Yes, arguments are great and fun but I insist that it is possible to actually experience, actually be this set up that the words create a picture of. The fulfillment of all mystical talk is the actual being of it!
How does it manifest? It manifests very specifically and simply in the knowing that you are
and yet not knowing what you are,
in fact, having no idea what you are--and yet you are! Paradox.
That is, in the world of specifics the I, the me, the person becomes just another part of the passing scenery--another manifestation of the world that comes and goes----but what you are is --for lack of a better word--goneness, pure goneness. I am gone and yet I am!
It is expressed in the statement---I have no idea who I am or what I am--and yet I am!
The personality is there, the tasks, the world and so on---but
there is the realization and the thrill that there is nothing specific that one is or ever could be!
In this way the whole world becomes the body, or rather, one wears the whole world like a garment.
This is the realization that there exists no one to transcend the world--that there is no such thing as an entity which transcends--there is strictly speaking no personal enlightenment-- Rather, the tight knot of personhood unravels. Any limit becomes transparent.
But this is to create too much of a conceptual framework, a jungle of words for it. It is vastly simpler than this---just expressed thus: I am gone, totally gone, I have no idea where I went nor any idea what I am --yet I am!
And this is perfect freedom.