PHIL 181 Final Notes Sheet

PHIL 181 Final Notes Sheet - V. Three Problems for the...

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V. Three Problems for the Atemporal Theory : Boethius (and theists of his stripe) wants to assert both of the theses that constitute the theological dilemma of fatalism, viz . ( i ) God is infallibly omniscient (and so knows of every human act) and ( ii ) human agents have free will. But, it’s one thing to get around a particular argument for the inconsistency of ( i ) and ( ii ) and quite another to establish their consistency. Boethius argues that the atemporal eternality assumption makes ( i ) and ( ii ) consistent. Is his argument successful? Pike believes so (as we saw), but Pike is too optimistic. Consider three problems for atemporalism in ascending order of seriousness. A. Traditional Theology Almost every theological theory and religious believer attributes to God actions in the natural world. For example, in every scripture that I know of God is portrayed as manifesting herself in various worldly forms, conversing with prophets, and bringing about miraculous events as needed. But, all such attributions put God into temporal relations with the natural world. So, every such belief takes God to exist in time. If, on the other hand, God is timeless, then it is logically impossible for her act in the world, interact with its citizens, or react to their doings. She cannot make her will known, perform miracles, respond to prayers, punish evil-doers for their wickedness, or forgive them their trespasses. Not only is it incoherent that an atemporal being act in time, but since actions are processes and, thus, have temporal features, no action of any kind is possible out of time. 1 That is, God cannot act at all . For the same reason, she can’t think at all. 2 One might want to reply that God’s thoughts and actions are instantaneous; but, even instantaneous thought and action occur at particular instants. More generally, both thought and action essentially involve the concept change , but change is an inherently temporal concept. Therefore, a timeless being (logically) cannot change; it must be absolutely immutable . These considerations about action, thought, and change imply that no timeless being is a person ! So, atemporal existence is inconsistent with the notion of a personal deity. Though this may be a problem for most theists, it’s not at all clear that it should bother Boethius who seems not to have been committed to this traditional sort of theology. B. Omniscience More controversially, timelessness may itself be incompatible with omniscience. 3 1. To see how this might be so, we need to consider the distinction between timeless or eternal facts and essentially temporal facts or between timelessly or eternally true propositions and essentially temporal propositions . Whether an essentially temporal fact obtains or not depends on what time it is now, i.e. on which moment of time is the present moment. Timeless/eternal facts do not so depend. For example, it is a fact/true that the 2009 winter term exams are already over. That’s a fact/true now (at the time that I write these words), i.e. on September 26, 2009, but it wasn’t a fact/true a year ago.
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This note was uploaded on 01/18/2011 for the course PHIL 181 taught by Professor Zhong during the Spring '08 term at University of Michigan.

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PHIL 181 Final Notes Sheet - V. Three Problems for the...

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