Okay, I’ve been correcting student papers for far too long now. The time has come to peer above the parapet and write some sort of blog post. Nothing too laborious today, I’m afraid. Just a quick attempt to formalise an objection to William Lane Craig’s Kalam Argument that I recently heard (where “recently” = about a month ago) on the Reasonable Doubts podcast.
The objection in question came from the presenter Justin Schieber (I think that’s how you spell it anyway) and was based on a series of questions and objections he put to Craig on the Unbelievable podcast (hosted by Justin Brierly). The full exchange was set out in Episode 92 of the Reasonable Doubts podcast pretty quickly, and on a first listen I wasn’t sure if it was particularly interesting. I became slightly more convinced of it merits on a second listen, and I decided to write up this blog post in order to see whether there is anything to it. After all, one only really understands something when one tries to explain it to others.
I’ll break the discussion here up into four sections. In the first section, I will briefly outline Craig’s argument (I apologise in advance for this), focusing on the oft-neglected second stage where he defends the personal nature of the cause of the universe. In the second section, I will discuss Schieber’s initial objection to this argument — the one that was actually put to Craig on the Unbelievable podcast. In the third section, I will present Craig’s response to Schieber’s objection. And, finally, in the fourth section, I will attempt to formalise Schieber’s response to Craig’s response. As far as I am aware, this fourth section brings us up to date with the current state of the dialectic.
To reiterate: my goal here is to see whether — through a reasonably careful formalisation — there is anything to Schieber’s objection. Comments from readers would be welcome on this.
1. The Kalam and Personal Causes
I appreciate this will be quite tedious for those who are already familiar with the argument, but to make sure we all start off from the same point, here is the basic version of Craig’s Kalam argument:
- (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
- (2) The universe began to exist.
- (3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
Craig usually defends premise (1) by appeals to incredulity — e.g imagine if a tiger just popped into existence without a cause? — or by appeals to intuitively compelling metaphysical principles such as ex nihilo nihil fit. I looked at some of Wes Morriston’s objections to these defences on another occasion.
Craig defends premise (2) with at least four different arguments. Two of which are a priori and based on paradoxes that would arise if the set of past events was actually infinite; and two of which are a posteriori and based on aspects of contemporary physics (namely, Big Bang theory and the second law of thermodynamics). Craig’s defence of this principle is certainly complex and, one has to say, philosophically impressive. Still, there are plenty of replies to his arguments in the philosophical literature some of which are equally impressive (e.g. those found in the work of Graham Oppy or Quentin Smith).
Premise (3) follows logically from the conjunction of (1) and (2). The problem for Craig — or, rather, the problem that we will be considering today — is that (3) does not provide support for the existence of God. If we left the Kalam at (3), the most we could say is that there has to be some cause for the existence of the universe; but we couldn’t say whether that cause is divine or non-divine. The Kalam needs a second stage.
Despite his usual penchant for formal arguments, Craig doesn’t seem to ever present a formal argument for a divine cause. In the 3rd Edition of Reasonable Faith he simply says that: “conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe then aims to establish some of the theologically significant properties of this being [the first causer]” (p. 111). Nevertheless, I think it is possible to formalise Craig’s second stage argument as a series of (hopefully exhaustive) disjunctive syllogisms. In other words, Craig defines the theoretical space in which possible causes of the universe will be found; he identifies the main contenders within this space; and then starts eliminating contenders on various grounds until all but the theologically significant contenders are left standing.
For our purposes, the theoretical space of possible causes is defined by one key property: non-temporality (or eternality). In other words, all putative causes of the universe must, at a minimum, be non-temporal. This is for two reasons: (i) because Craig’s defence of premise (2) of the Kalam explicitly rules out the possibility of an infinite regress of temporal events and (ii) because the goal of the argument is to find the cause that kicked off the actual temporal sequence of events in the universe.
The main contenders within this theoretical space can then be reduced to two: (a) a non-temporal impersonal cause and (b) a non-temporal personal cause. If the cause is personal, then it is theologically significant since that is typically thought to be a key property of God. But further argumentation would be then needed to show that this personal cause has the other properties associated with God (e.g. omnibenevolence). That is something that the Kalam, by itself, cannot do.
Anyway, with all this in mind, we can offer the following as a formalisation of the second stage of the Kalam argument:
- (4) The cause of the universe could either be a non-temporal impersonal cause or a non-temporal personal cause.
- (5) The cause of the universe cannot be a non-temporal impersonal cause.
- (6) Therefore, the cause of the universe is a non-temporal personal cause.
Premise (5) is the key here. Craig supports this with the idea that impersonal causes are always sufficient to produce their effects. In other words, if the cause is present, so too must the effect be present. This is supposed to create a problem since it would mean that if the cause is eternal, so too must the effect be eternal. But since it is a key part of Craig’s argument that the universe is not eternal, the cause cannot therefore be impersonal.
There are some problems with this argument. Not least of which is the fact that it tends to confuse true eternity (non-temporality) with beginningless and endless duration. These problems are covered by Wes Morriston in his article “Must the Beginning of the Universe Have a Personal Cause?”, which I discussed on commonsenseatheism over a year ago. (Side note: It does slightly beggar belief that Morriston is not mentioned in Craig’s Reasonable Faith).
2. Schieber’s Initial Objection
In the question that he put to Craig on the Unbelievable podcast, Schieber presented a direct challenge to the second stage of Craig’s argument. The challenge is not directed at Craig’s defence of premise (5) but, rather, at the very concept of a non-temporal personal cause. Since this is the case, we’ll construe this as an objection to premise (4) (since premise (4) is supposed to accurately describe the space of possible causes, and since Schieber’s argument is that one of the proposed causes within that space could not possibly exist).
This objection derives its force from an analysis of what it means to be a personal cause. Schieber argues that persons cause events — events such as the beginning of the universe — through intentional action. I suspect this is a familiar notion to most readers, but perhaps a few clarificatory words are in order. Intentionality is the so-called “mark of the mental”. An intentional state, such as a belief, desire or intention, is something with the property of “aboutness”. To follow Searle’s analysis, all intentional states will have a direction of fit and a direction of causation.
Let’s use the example of a intention to illustrate what this means — this will be useful since intentions are crucial to the whole dialectic between Craig and Schieber. Suppose I intend to eat an apple. My intention has a world-to-mind direction of fit: in order for my intention to be satisfied, the conditions in the world must change in such a way that I consume and digest the apple. But my intention has a mind-to-world direction of causation: the mental state causes those changes to be brought about in the world outside the mind.
See the table below for a more complete taxonomy of intentional states with their associated directions of fit and causation.
Now we come to the crux of it. Schieber argues that in order for a person to cause an event to occur, they must first intend for this event to occur. And in order for them to do this, their intention must temporally precede the changes that are brought about in the world. This further implies that in order for there to be intentions, there must be a temporal framework in place (i.e. a sequence of moments that succeed one another). But if this a necessary condition of intention, then there cannot be a non-temporal personal cause of any event.
- (7) Personal beings cause events via intentions.
- (8) In order for an intention to cause an event, that intention must temporally precede the event.
- (9) If something temporally precedes/succeeds another thing, then there must be a temporal realm (obvious, but worth stating explicitly).
- (10) Therefore, personal causes cannot be non-temporal (from 7, 8, and 9).
If successful, this argument would defeat premise (4) of the extended Kalam.
Regular followers of Craig’s work can probably guess how he will respond to this. True to form, he doesn’t disappoint when asked to respond on the Unbelievable podcast. But this response leads Schieber to formulate an altogether more interesting version of his objection. Let’s see how all this plays out.
3. Craig’s Response
As I say, those who follow Craig’s work on the Kalam will be able to guess his response. For years now, Craig has been harping on about the distinction between “causal priority” and “temporal priority”, as well as the possibility of timeless eternal intentions. Combining these two notions, Craig can say that God’s intention to create the universe may have existed eternally and may have causally preceded rather than temporally preceded the beginning of the universe.
In the course of the podcast, Craig explains what he means by way of a thought experiment:
The Cliff-Hanger: Picture, if you will, a man who is hanging off the side of a cliff. To prevent his descent into oblivion, he grabs hold of a tree branch. He does so by intending to hold onto the tree branch. But here the intention is simultaneous with, rather than temporally prior, to the actual act of holding onto the branch.
This thought experiment reveals a flaw in premise (8) of Schieber’s objection. This premise states that in order for an intention to cause an event, the intention must temporally precede the event in question. But as the Cliff-Hanger example reveals, this need not always be the case: sometimes, intentions can be simultaneous with the events that they cause. Thus, we have to acknowledge the following rebutting premise:
- (11) Intentions can be simultaneous with the events that they cause; they need not always temporally precede them.
Furthermore, as Craig goes on to make clear, even if the intention is simultaneous with the event that it causes, this does not mean that it is not *causally* or *explanatorily* prior to the event: the man’s intention to hold onto the tree-branch is what explains his holding onto the tree branch, not the other way around. I see this as a “the dog wags the tail, the tail doesn’t wag the dog”-kind of point.
Two observations are worthwhile before moving on. First, Craig’s response is, I think, well-made. Indeed, it exploits a distinction that Searle and others makes in their analysis of intentions, namely: the distinction between prior intentions and intentions-in-action. The former must temporally precede the act; the latter must coincide with and sustain the performance of the act. I’ll use this distinction in the remainder of the discussion. Second, even if the response is well-made, I’m not sure how far it gets us: simultaneity is still a temporal relation and God is supposed to be non-temporal. Perhaps Craig thinks that along as any sort of chink is opened up to the possibility of intentions that are not prior to action, he has given the concept of an eternal intention some plausibility, but I’m not convinced. I think this raises more problems. I’ll try to return to this at the end.
4. Schieber’s Response to Craig’s Response
Taking Craig’s criticism onboard, Schieber refines his original argument. The refinement accepts that there are two kinds of intention — prior intentions and intentions-in-action — but adds further complexity to our understanding of intentions by focusing on two different kinds of intentional content. They are:
Intentions that Change a State of Affairs: These are intentions whose content specifies that, in order for them to be satisfied, the present state of affairs must be altered in one or more ways. To use the vocabulary introduced earlier, the world must be changed in order to fit with the content of the intention.
Intentions that Maintain a State of Affairs: These are intentions whose content specifies that, in order for them to be satisfied, the present state of affairs must remain the same. To use the vocabulary introduced earlier, the world must stay the same in order to fit with the content of the intention.
Scheeber’s claim is that while intentions to maintain a state of affairs can be simultaneous with their effects, intentions to change a state of affairs must precede their effects.
This then raises the obvious question: what kind of intention was God’s intention to create the universe have? What kind of content did it have? Surely it would have to be an intention to change a state of affairs, not an intention to maintain a state of affairs. After all, “prior” to the universe existing, God was the only thing in existence; “after” the universe began to exist, there were at least two things in existence. Thus, there must have been some change in the state of affairs. So if there was a change in the state of affairs, this change must have a cause, and this cause must be personal, then there must have been a prior intention.
In other words:
- (12) Persons can cause events via two kinds of intention: (i) intentions that change states of affairs; and (ii) intentions that maintain states of affairs.
- (13) Intentions to change a state of affairs must be temporally prior to the changes they bring about; intentions to maintain a state of affairs can simultaneous with the states of affairs they maintain.
- (14) An intention that caused the universe to begin must have been an intention to change a state of affairs.
- (15) Therefore, an intention that caused the universe to begin needed to be temporally prior to the beginning of the universe.
But, of course, according to the Kalam argument the cause of the universe must be non-temporal, so Schieber’s original objection to the Kalam will then go through, i.e.
- (16) Therefore, a personal cause of the universe cannot be non-temporal.
This is illustrated in the diagram below.
I’m pretty much done. I hope this post has been informative to those of you who have made it this far. It’s certainly helped me to clarify a few points in my own mind. I’m still not sure whether Schieber’s argument is a good one — and I’m still trying to imagine how Craig might respond to it (suggestions below please). Nevertheless, I do have two concluding observations that might stimulate some conversation, even if they don’t address all significant points arising from the preceding dialectic.
First up, there is this whole issue of intentionality and intentional states. Most analyses of intentional states — such as Searle’s — assume that there is a mental world and an external world. Indeed, this duality is what makes sense of the directions of fit and directions of causation proposed by Searle. This is not to say that intentional states are impossible unless they connect to an external world — I can imagine, for example, intending to change my beliefs about something — but it’s always difficult to grasp what an intentional state could be about unless at some point it joins up with the external world. This creates problems in our analysis of God’s creative act. Can we meaningfully talk about God’s intentional states as if they were similar to our own? This might also be thought to open up a potential challenge to Schieber’s refined objection since it still relies an analogies with our own intentions. But there’s something for the theist to worry about here too. Indeed, Schieber actually takes advantage of something like this in another argument he makes about God’s existence: we typically have intentions and desires because there are things in the external world that displease us and that we would like to change; but God is supposedly perfect; so when he exists on his own — as he must “prior” to the existence of the universe — he could not possible have desires and intentions like ours. So it’s difficult to understand why he would create a universe at all. (It also seems to me that divine simplicity would pose problems for divine intentionality).
Second, there is the whole issue of time and eternity. The more I’m forced to think about eternal persons (which, admittedly, isn’t very often), the more confused I become. It seems to be an incredibly difficult conceptual feat to make any sense of eternal minds or eternal intentional states. You could see this in my discussion of God’s creative act which made use of temporal words like “priority” and “before” even after I had accepted that God’s intentions must be non-temporal. Craig likes to object to an infinite regress of past events on the grounds that accepting such a possibility comes at the theoretical cost of accepting numerous paradoxes. But I’m not so sure that accepting the possibility of non-temporal persons comes at an even larger theoretical cost (I’m also not sure that all paradoxes are theoretically costly).
Anyway, I shall leave it there.
I am glad that I stumbled upon your blog. I am going to take a close look at this post when I have more time, and I appreciate seeing this post because a mere few days ago I posted my own Kalam conjecture "First Quasi-Cause: Uncaused Timeless Nature." http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2011/12/first-quasi-cause-uncaused-timeless.html
I'll get back to you when I have some so-called free time. Cheers. James :-)
Thanks for posting this!ReplyDelete
Just so I don't forget ( I haven't finished reading your post yet). I think you've made a typo witch needs to be corrected. In the first section you wright:ReplyDelete
"The main contenders within this theoretical space can then be reduced to two: (a) a non-temporal impersonal cause and (b) a non-temporal personal cause. If the cause is TEMPORAL, then it is theologically significant since that is typically thought to be a key property of God".
I have highlighted the presumed typo by means of all capitals, as that was the only way I knew how to, and I suppose that what you meant was "PERSONAL" as the sentence makes sense that way. I hope I haven't missunderstood, thus making a fool out of myself.
Sincerely, Roland Chantre
Yes, well-spotted. I've changed the sentence in light of your comment.
Cheers for the other comments guys.
It seems to come down to one's position on the metaphysics of (a) causation and (b) time (is there much agreement on either of these issues?). I see four main options:ReplyDelete
(1) The past is eternal and intentions to change states of affairs require the intention to precede the effect in time. While this view is not compatible with Craig's KCA it might be compatible with some other cosmological argument (e.g., Five Ways of Aquinas?).
(2) The past is eternal and intentions to change states of affairs do not require the intention to precede the effect in time. Personally, I don't think the past is eternal because it seems nonsensical to think that an infinite amount of time preceded the present. Therefore I can't accept (1) or (2).
(3) The past is finite and intentions to change states of affairs require the intention to precede the effect in time. This option seems to create problems for both sides. It would defeat Craig's KCA but it would also mean the universe was uncaused.
(4) The past is finite and intentions to change states of affairs do not require the intention to precede the effect in time. While I lean towards this position (because I'm more convinced of the universality of cause-and-effect than a specific view of causation) its hard to conceive of how change could occur without time.
What do you mean, "After all, “prior” to the universe existing, God was the only thing in existence..."? I'm questioning the "prior to the universe existing" bit. My understanding of Craig's Kalam is that he very carefully defines the concept of beginning so as not to imply that there is a time before the beginning of the universe. So there is no time at which God exists and the universe does not. (Time itself exists only in or as a part of a universe.) That leaves me wondering what the change is that God must intend. I would think that indeed God's intention to create the universe is more like an intention to maintain a state of affairs. At all points in time God is, always was, and always will be the one who by his own free will creates this universe. That is to say, at all times God intends to maintain the state of affairs of creating (or being the creator of) this universe. Outside of time it is still God's identity to be the one who by an act of free will creates this universe. If that is an intention, I would say it is an intention to maintain a state of affairs, an identity, which intention is casually but not temporily prior to the state of affairs being realized.ReplyDelete
I think that's probably the correct way to interpret Craig's argument. The problem is that it significantly blunts the force of Craig's main objection to an impersonal non-temporal cause (that it would be sufficient for its effect).ReplyDelete
As I say, this is something Morriston discusses in his article at quite some length. I summarised it in the series on CSA that is linked to in the post above. Basically, it gets back to the confusion of the two senses of eternity.
Totally agree with your response to Zeb. And Craig's reposte (at least the only one I know) is to suggest that the cause must be personal because if the cause was non-temporal and mechanical, the universe would be past-infinite (I think this is egregiously wrong). If there is t0, and if time comes in discrete units, then the duration of the existence of the universe is, by necessity, finite.
"I'm questioning the "prior to the universe existing" bit. My understanding of Craig's Kalam is that he very carefully defines the concept of beginning so as not to imply that there is a time before the beginning of the universe. So there is no time at which God exists and the universe does not."
Craig refers of a state of affairs causally prior to the universe existing. So, while this is not a 'time', it can still be referred to. God existed sans the universe in a timeless state and, from that state, intentionally created the universe.
(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
(4) Therefore Jesus turns into a cracker
I appreciated my first close look at this post.
My first thought is that there are no empirical proofs of an originally timeless God, but there are reasonable conjectures of God. In this case, I propose that Craig would greatly strengthen his argument if he clarifies that 5 and 6 are conjectures, for example:
5: There is reasonable doubt that the “cause” of the observed universe (or multiverse) is an atemporal impersonal cause.
6. Therefore, conjecturing an atemporal personal cause of the universe is reasonable
Perhaps I am breaking the rules of formalization, but these notions journey into conjectures beyond formal logic.
I also agree with you that Kalam says nothing about divine benevolence or divine malevolence, while inquire about divine benevolence needs to shift gears and analyze theodicy—that is, the problem of evil.
Dear Dr. Danaher,ReplyDelete
Thank you for this interesting break-down of Mr. Schieber’s argument. I've been thinking about it a bit, and I would like to formulate something of a response.
As you say, the argument runs so long as premises (12)-(15) are true. But I think we might have good reason to think (13) is false. Premise (13) states: “Intentions to change a state of affairs must be temporally prior to the changes they bring about; intentions to maintain a state of affairs can [be] simultaneous with the states of affairs they maintain”. Let us suppose that an intention is a state of affairs. Also, it can be the case that one can have second-ordered intentions, or even higher-ordered intentions. For instance, I intend to drink a glass of milk, but I also intend my intention to drink the glass of milk. Now if the regress of orders of intention were subject to an infinite temporal regress, it would seem that it would take an infinite amount of time before I could transition from intending to intend to intend (ad infinitum) to the simply first-ordered intending to drink a glass of milk, which is absurd. Yet, there is no reason to suppose that there is any limit to the higher-orders of intention. Therefore, it is more reasonable to suppose that higher orders of intention are simultaneous to first-order intention.
If higher-ordered intentions are simultaneous to first-order intention, it is also the case that when I change my intentions, this could be a result of my intention to change my intentions on a higher-order. That is, I might have a second-order intention to no longer intend to drink a glass of milk. This would be simultaneous to a new state of affairs, i.e. my intention not to drink a glass of milk. So it seems to me that an intention to change one’s intentions can be simultaneous to the changing of that intention itself. One might object that first-order intending might actually cause change in higher-order intending, but this too would seem to be a change in a state of affairs due to a simultaneous (first-order) intention as its cause. It is for this reason that I see no reason to suppose that a change in a state of affairs necessarily requires temporal priority of the intention that brings it about. But perhaps my response is merely confused.
Daniel, I think the confusion in your thought comes from the way you work back from the intention to drink. For us mortals, time runs 'forwards', so to speak. Our intention to drink the milk can only begin from the moment we become aware of the milk. In fact, our conscious intention to drink the milk is preceded by an unconscious decision to drink it. Experimentation has demonstrated that our bodies' reaction to a given stimulus precedes our conscious decision to react. To simplify horribly; our conscious decision isReplyDelete
whether to allow the action our body has already
I just want to clarify my point a bit in light of your response. I do not hold that one needs to be conscious of an intention in order to have an intention. To draw a parallel, one need not be conscious of everything one knows in order to know it. For instance, I am not conscious of the second verse to "Amazing Grace", but I know it. I also know that I know the second verse to "Amazing Grace", which means that we can have higher orders of knowing without being conscious of it. In fact, since I think there is no limit to the higher orders, I think it would be impossible to be conscious of every level at which I know the second verse to "Amazing Grace". So I would not want to conflate knowing with thinking (consciously). Nor would I want to conflate intending with the conscious awareness of my intention.
You write, "Our intention to drink the milk can only begin from the moment we become aware of the milk. In fact, our conscious intention to drink the milk is preceded by an unconscious decision to drink it." I disagree that I must be aware of milk in order to have an intention to drink milk. My intention might drive me to go to the fridge, or the store, to get milk that is not present to my perception. Furthermore, it seems that you think we can make "unconscious decisions", and that is all I mean by "unconscious intentions". I merely propose that there are higher levels of unconscious decisions/intentions.
@John, I have another idea about your article:ReplyDelete
John wrote, Second, there is the whole issue of time and eternity. The more I'm forced to think about eternal persons (which, admittedly, isn't very often), the more confused I become. It seems to be an incredibly difficult conceptual feat to make any sense of eternal minds or eternal intentional states. You could see this in my discussion of God’s creative act which made use of temporal words like "priority" and "before" even after I had accepted that God's intentions must be non-temporal. Craig likes to object to an infinite regress of past events on the grounds that accepting such a possibility comes at the theoretical cost of accepting numerous paradoxes. But I'm not so sure that accepting the possibility of non-temporal persons comes at an even larger theoretical cost (I’m also not sure that all paradoxes are theoretically costly).
Craig proposes an originally self-existent atemporal God who transitions to temporality ("God, Time, and Eternity." Religious Studies 14 (1979): 497-503). In this case, the atemporal state included potential for nonessential change. I have a similar view except that Craig is a Molinist and I lean toward open theism/futurism. Anyway, regardless of deity or no deity, our choices follow:
1. An infinite past time's arrow that can never pass but somehow paradoxically passes.
2. A paradoxical transition from original timelessness to time.
We must choose our necessary paradoxes wisely. In this case, there are both theists and atheists who side with infinite past time and both theists and atheists who side with the transition from timelessness to time. However, I see that the first option is inconceivable. A literal infinite sequence can never end in at least one direction. If there is an infinite past, it would have to be something other than an infinite sequence, which one way or another throws the notion into something comparable to a timeless block that belongs to the second option. Likewise, theist or atheist, the transition from timelessness to time is the only conceivable option.
One more thought:ReplyDelete
John said, (It also seems to me that divine simplicity would pose problems for divine intentionality).
When it comes to Augustine's and Aquinas's absolute divine simplicity, yes, there is a lot of unnecessary rigidness. But divine intentionality poses no problem to essential divine simplicity.
I share your concerns about an 'infinite past time arrow'. However, if a person holds to a Buddhistic conception of presentism, (that the past is as metaphysically unreal as the future, and either can only be 'held' in the mind) then the paradox of a backward infinite temporal sequence loses force. On the Buddhist Presentist view, the past only seems real due to memory (we are able to retain experiential information from our past, and therefore the past seems more real than the unreal future). So, to speak of temporal sequences, on this form of presentism, is to speak of the conceptual but not the metaphysical. The paradoxes aren't real.
I don't think your response works in that you fail to properly account for unconscious intentions in a tri-omni God. You use a human analogy to show that unconscious higher intentions could be simultaneous to the changes intended but God is omniscient and nothing could be said to be unconscious for Him.
Unless, of course, you mean for the higher-order intentions to be consciously held, in which case I disagree with your contention that the higher-order intention should not be temporarily prior.ReplyDelete
I wasn't trying to account for unconscious intentions in a tri-omni God. I was trying to give reason to think premise 13 is false. No analogy was intended.
Okay, then. In which case, my objection would be that your attack on premise 13 would actually work if you've shown that unconscious higher order intentions are simultaneous to lower order intentions which you have not. Even if you have, you're still left with a premise that can be reworked to take that into account (possibly, you can delimit the premise to all states of affairs other than unconscious intentions themselves).ReplyDelete
In fact, our conscious experience of higher order intentions tell us that it cannot be temporally simultaneous. The only reason you can get away with claiming simultaneity is that you're positing unconscious processes for which evidence is not forthcoming.ReplyDelete
I want to make sure that I understand the Buddhistic notion of presentism. Does Buddhistic presentism imply that nothing existed a Planck time ago?
No. It says that a Planck time ago, what did exist, does not exist anymore, anywhere in any sense.
Craig is aware of the problem of what one might call radical presentism (Buddhism isn't the only worldview that subscribes to this form notion of time). His answer is that there is an intuitive sense in which we can talk about the past, so it can be considered, in some sense, more real than the future. But as I mentioned above, this form of presentism gives a pretty convincing explanation of that intuition, at least it's convincing to me. It is because we hold experiential information of the past, that the past, even on basic presentism, has a different ontological status to the future.
To attack this form of presentism, I think one could try looking at the notion of truthmakers, and how presentism is able to have have a truthmaker about the past, or the future.
Please let me know if I correctly understand this. According to Buddhist presentism, there was an infinite past sequence of events that no longer exists. Or there was an original timelessness followed by a finite sequence of past events that no longer exists. Is that correct?
The traditional, if not uniformly held view, is that that universe is eternal, made from a non-existent past-infinite temporal sequence. Your problem comes with thinking of that past-infinite temporal sequence as something, in some sense, real.
Allow me to try and clarify, BP basically implies that the conceptual/paradoxical difficulties of backward/forward infinite temporal sequences are a problem of the mind, not reality. These problems are generated because the mind tries to hold the past and the future as ontologically close enough to be treated as part of the same set as the present (even many orthodox presentists do this). BP insists that this is wrong. The idea of a temporal sequence (made up of past-present, or present-future, or past-present-future), exists only in the mind. In reality, there is no sequence.
It's worth noting that many paradoxes on infinity, treat the infinite set as effectively existing at one present moment in time: Hilbert's Hotel for example. Treating all the elements of an infinite set as existing concurrently, leads to the paradoxes with which we are familiar. But BP suggests that these paradoxes don't work for temporal infinities (a reason why they should be treated distinctly), as long as one holds to a absolute notion of the nonexistence of the past and future.
Hope that helps some. I know it's a difficult idea to wrap your head around at first.
Is BP similar to block universe / eternalist theories where all sequence of events are an illusion in an absolutely simultaneous universe?ReplyDelete
In any case, any theory of time such as BP that denies sequences of events also incidentally rejects all empirical observations of cause and effect. And the rejection of empirical observations of cause and effect consequently rejects the notion of science. In this case, nobody can possibly disprove that the universe has nothing but an illusion sequences, but such philosophical theories are incompatible with the notion of science.
Not sure what you are getting at here. You seem to be saying that causality requires time. Not sure that is true. Quantum entanglement suggests instantaneous communication between entangled photons. And even the Kalam suggests instantaneous cause-and-effect in God's timeless creation of space-time. But perhaps I'm missing your point. Regardless, I fear we have hogged the discussion long enough. Perhaps we shall interact again, on another Philosophical Disquistions post.
I will clarify that many observations of causality require the passage of time, even if there are exceptions as you indicate. And I am still trying to understand how Buddhist presentism differs from eternalism.ReplyDelete
Well, here are some comments I felt should be made about this post.ReplyDelete
First - I think it's critical to keep "eternal", as in "eternal god" or "eternal cause" that exists forever, conceptually apart from "atemporal", which is "existing outside of time". As noted in the comments above me, Craig's traditional position is that God is Eternal from the perspective of the universe, but Atemporal as of itself.
Secondly - Schieber's (first) challenge should be answered with "intentions cause later actions in temporal persons, not a-temporal persons; from the point of view within the universe, god's intentions indeed are causally connected to his actions in the world in this manner, but this mode of description simply fails when we consider god as an atemporal being creating time atemporally".
God isn't a "person" in the full sense of the word - he doesn't have any mental defects, for example; rather, he is in some key aspects like a person. That's the only theology that sort-of makes sense. And given that, the fact that God's intention to create the world (and time) leads to its creation in an a-temporal way rather than at a later time (which isn't even defined except from within the universe) is immaterial.
In other words, theists should reject premise 8 - it clearly cannot even be applied to atemporal intentions, i.e. the intentions of an atemporal person.
Thirdly - Craig's response is confused and confusing, since he's conflating Eternal and Atemporal causes. It is NOT that case that god intends and creates the world SIMULTANEOUSLY. Rather, god intends and creates the world ATEMPORALLY. Simultaneity is a relation in-time, and time does not exist except from within the universe.
Craig is furthermore factually incorrect. All intentions precede their effects. The cliffhanger's fingers will twitch to maintain his current position after and because of his intention to do so. The fact that causes precede their effects is a cornerstone of basic physics, and until that CERN experiment gets validated should be considered true.
Fourth - Atemporal causation is a joke. Indeed, treating causes as fundamental metaphysical entities is a joke. Both relativity and Parmenides teach us that Eternalism/Block-universe are true, that stuff JUST IS. The division into cause and effect is merely a convinient way to package and comprehend it. There is no causation, no magical force beyond what IS. There are only regularities within what is, temporal regularities we call "causation" or "laws of nature". So the idea of atemporal causation is a contradiction in terms - causation just is temporal regularity, there is no "atemporal" causation, or "causal force", or whatever. It's just empty metaphysics.
Similarly, considering persons as fundamental causes is a joke. Scientifically, persons are not fundamental causes any more than trucks are; they're both just types of arrangements of the more basic stuff. To privilege the specific overall processes (intentions, decisions, and so on) persons use over others, to even seriously contemplate that these are fundamental causally, is hubris of the worse sort. Philosophically, persons are made out of parts (divide simplicity notwithstanding) that stand in causal relations to each other, so cannot form the fundamental causal foundation.
The entire discussion is a comedy of errors. There is no real meaning to saying "Atemporal god atemporally caused the universe to exist", and it is not reasonable to consider a personal fundamental cause. Despite this, within these absurd assumptions, Craig's response fails as I've noted but Schieber's challenge should fail as I've noted too. In short - I'm, to put it gently, not very impressed with the whole discussion.
"Rather, god intends and creates the world ATEMPORALLY"
Doesn't the concept of creation also imply the existence of time? Just like simultaneity?
Well, it's a "metaphor", standing in for something more accurately like "atemporally caused X to be". So when one says "God creates the world atemporally" what one means is something like "God atemporally causes the world to be".
Not that I accept the metaphysics behind this line of reasoning, but still.
"In reality God existing sans creation is entirely alone, utterly changeless and perfect, and not a single event disturbs His immobility. There is no before, no after, no temporal passage, no future phase of His life. There is just God, changeless and solitary... Nothing exists but God in this utterly changeless state." -WLC "God and the Beginning of Time"ReplyDelete
This is what Craig means by atemporal. There seems to be no problem with simultaneous events happening in a single timeless moment. The problem I am getting at is that you can't have, in that single timeless moment, the universe beginning to exist because this posits an additional moment that is distinguishable from the timeless moment that is just God existing sans the universe. This addition of a new 'moment' gives us relations such as before and after and therefor, time. However, such relations cannot exist unless they take place 'in' time. I can't make any sense out of this unless the theist wants to posit that God has always been creating the universe.
If not, the theist is left with a 'before' and 'after' relationship in what is supposed to be a singular, frozen, timeless moment.