Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Time, space, and God


Samuel Clarke’s A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God is one of the great works of natural theology.  But Clarke’s position is nevertheless in several respects problematic from a Thomistic point of view.  For example, Clarke, like his buddy Newton, takes an absolutist view of time and space.  Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of nature does not take an absolutist position (though it does not exactly take a relationalist position either).  There are independent metaphysical reasons for this, but for the moment I want to focus on a theological problem.
 
As Thomists sometimes point out, the absolutist position makes space and time infinite and uncreated, and thus effectively deifies them.  Clarke and Newton don’t exactly deny this.  They avoid making time and space out to be deities alongside God, though, by more or less making of them divine attributes.  Recall that for Newton, famously, space is God’s sensorium.  It essentially becomes identified with God’s omnipresence.  Time becomes identical with his eternity, or rather with everlasting duration.  God is brought into time.

The problems with this, from a Thomist (and more generally, classical theist) perspective, should be obvious.  Space is extended.  God is not.  Time entails change.  God is changeless.  And if space and time are divine attributes, then we have to take a pantheist or at least panentheist view of the natural world.  For the most general features of nature would then be aspects of God.

William Lane Craig thinks this isn’t quite right.  He writes:

Newton… declares explicitly that space is not in itself absolute and therefore not a substance. Rather it is an emanent – or emanative – effect of God.  By this notion Newton meant to say that time and space were the immediate consequence of God's very being.  God's infinite being has as its consequence infinite time and space, which represent the quantity of His duration and presence.  Newton does not conceive of space or time as in any way attributes of God Himself, but rather, as he says, concomitant effects of God. (Time and Eternity, p. 46)

Putting aside questions of Newton exegesis, would this get Clarke and Newton out of the frying pan?  Only by landing them in the fire.  For if time and space are “concomitant effects” or “the immediate consequence” of “God's very being,” then their existence follows of necessity from his.  And there are several problems with this thesis.

First, it would entail that the act of creation was not free (or at least that the creation of space and time was not free).  For according to this thesis, God cannot not create time and space.  But freedom is one of the divine attributes, knowable even by way of purely philosophical argumentation.  (See e.g. Summa Theologiae I.19.10; Summa Contra Gentiles I.81, I.88 and II.23; Five Proofs of the Existence of God, pp. 224-228.) 

Second, for God to create of necessity would detract from his perfection.  As Aquinas argues in Summa Theologiae I.19.3:

God wills things apart from Himself in so far as they are ordered to His own goodness as their end.  Now in willing an end we do not necessarily will things that conduce to it, unless they are such that the end cannot be attained without them; as, we will to take food to preserve life, or to take ship in order to cross the sea.  But we do not necessarily will things without which the end is attainable, such as a horse for a journey which we can take on foot, for we can make the journey without one.  The same applies to other means.  Hence, since the goodness of God is perfect, and can exist without other things inasmuch as no perfection can accrue to Him from them, it follows that His willing things apart from Himself is not absolutely necessary.

End quote.  So, if this is correct, then if God is perfect, his willing of things other than himself is not necessary.  But then, if his willing of things other than himself (in particular, time and space) is necessary, then by modus tollens he is not perfect.

Similarly, in Summa Contra Gentiles II.23.8, Aquinas argues that since “agents which act by will are obviously more perfect than those whose actions are determined by natural necessity,” God must be free.

A third problem is that if the existence of time and space follows necessarily from God’s existence, then not only did they have no beginning but they in principle could not have had a beginning.  This would not conflict with classical theism per se, but it would conflict with any version of classical theism which incorporates biblical revelation.

Fourth, we have a conflict with Catholic orthodoxy.  The First Vatican Council teaches:

If anyone says that finite things, both corporal and spiritual, or at any rate, spiritual, emanated from the divine substance… let him be anathema.

If anyone… holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself… let him be anathema.

Fifth, the position Craig attributes to Newton is not really a coherent one, at least not on a Thomistic metaphysical analysis.  For the position in question essentially holds that time and space cannot not exist and yet are not divine attributes.  But if they cannot not exist, then time and space must be purely actual and there must be in them no distinction between essence and existence.  But in that case they are divine attributes, since only of God can these things be said.  On the other hand, if they are not divine attributes, then they must not be purely actual and there must be in them a distinction between essence and existence.  In that case, though, it is false to say that they cannot not exist, since anything that is less than pure actuality, and anything in which there is a distinction between essence and existence, can in principle fail to exist. 

So, there just is no sense to be made of the idea that there is something distinct from God that he cannot not create.  If he cannot not create it then that is only because it cannot not exist, in which case it is purely actual and subsistent being itself and thus really identical with God.  If it is really distinct from God, then it is not purely actual or subsistent being itself, and thus it can fail to exist and God can refrain from creating it.  The supposed middle ground position between pantheism on the one hand, and affirming the contingency of time and space on the other, is an illusion.

59 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I honestly was not aware of this position of Newton's -- we mathematicians frequently come across his position that space is absolute, of course, but usually in the context of its having been found empirically problematic in relativity. I thought he was making a claim only about the nature of space, not about its metaphysical status. I'll have to study this more.

    Modern mathematics would certainly make the claim (as to its ontological status) a surprising one, although of course it couldn't refute it. Our space has properties -- notably its three-dimensionality -- that seem at least partly arbitrary and contingent in a way that they probably did not in Newton's time. That God's existence would necessarily entail the existence of a *three-dimensional* space would be mystifying (although, of course, cue the questionable meditations on the Trinity).

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  2. Why exactly can't space and time be infinite though?


    Thomists don't have a problem with an eternal universe, and I don't see why they should have a problem with an infinite amount of space considered either as a seperate substance ala Newton or as being contingent on matter and thus implying that infinitely many things exist.


    Both conceptions would be equally contingent and would require a necessary being to ground them.

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    1. I always thought that infinity of time is not the same as eternity although infinity and eternity are often used interchangeably. Time, flowing from the past into the future, changes and has direction, while eternity has no dimensions and is changeless. If we observe the difference between the two we may refer to space and time as infinite, or finite, but not eternal.
      Thomas_H

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  3. It also occurs to me that this means God could, at least in principle, create an infinite essence if He so desired, without this in any way "deifying" creation at all.


    An infinite universe with infinitely many objects in it would be as equally contingent and composite as an eternal universe that was finite in site.


    Heck, the universe could perhaps be a bigger infinity in size, perhaps aleph-1 (the set of real numbers) rather than just aleph-0 (the set of natural numbers) since the real numbers are bigger than the natural numbers, even though they are both infinite.


    This also opens up other infinity related questions such as:


    Can matter be infinitely complex? That is, there is no fundamental particle that cannot be divided, and there are infinitely many stages of division and infinitely many smaller and smaller levels of matter.


    Can there be infinite created qualities, such as heat, force, coldness, density, power, magnitude, length, volume etc?



    It seems as if an Aristotelian-Thomist could easily accept yes to all of the above, without thereby in any way meddling with pantheism or the like.

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  4. If anyone wants to not have to buy this from amazon, it is free on Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=lUY_AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover

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  5. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s quite accurate. The fact that they allow for an eternal universe when proving the existence of God doesn’t mean they don’t have a problem with it, full stop.

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    1. Of course. Aquinas's five ways are neutral on whether the universe is eternal or not, but Aquinas himself believed that the universe had a beginning. He thought it was a datum of revelation - "in the beginning, God created...".

      Personally, however, I've never found such a passage to be insistent on a non-eternal universe. It seems suggestive of it, but I don't think other interpretations would be untenable, although they can seem somewhat less plausible. I have no idea about whether the Church holds the universe to have had an absolute beginning, though. I think not, but I'm not sure.

      I personally believe the universe had a beginning because I accept the Kalam, however.

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    2. @Miguel,


      What about the idea of an infinitely big universe with infinitely many things in it?


      Is such an idea acceptable to the Thomist, because I seem to recall there being philosophical as well as some theological objections to the effect that there cannot be even an accidentally infinite multiplicity (argued for by Aquinas himself, though he seemed to switch on the issue later on) and that this opens the door to there being infinitely many other copies of the Milky Way galaxy with humans on them, which would make salvation a bit problematic considering the Incarnation would have to have taken place infinitely many times on infinitely many different places.


      Another question about infinity is if the Thomist could accept an infinitely complex view of matter?


      That is, the view that there is no fundamental particle or level of matter, and that matter can be divided to infinity with newer and newer constituent particles appearing.


      On the other hand, a discrete view of matter where there is a fundamental particle that cannot even in principle be divided further seems to pose a few problems for hylemorphism so...


      What do you think?

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    3. I don't know about a universe that is "infinitely big", it seems a weird idea to me, but I take no position on it. An actual infinity of things is not theologically objectionable to me, because it need not imply that there are infinitely many copies of the Milky Way or anything like that. An actual infinity of beings need not imply that a specific being will be "repeated" infinitely many times or even that each kind of thing has infinitely many instances in the universe. There can be infinitely many distinct beings in that sense, so I don't think theological worries would apply here.

      Though I personally believe an actual infinity of beings is impossible, because of issues such as Hilbert's hotel.

      I don't think thomists would have problems with a discrete view of matter; the fundamental particle would still be what it is by virtue of its having a certain formal structure (which distinguishes it from other non-fundamental particles after all) organizing its prime matter. I don't think thomists would have an issue with an infinitely complex view of matter either, though I personally reject it.

      But I'm not really an expert in this particular issue of the fundamental particles. I'm looking forward to Feser's book on the philosophy of nature.

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    4. @Miguel,


      "I don't know about a universe that is "infinitely big", it seems a weird idea to me, but I take no position on it."



      What I was refering to is the cosmological model of the universe as being infinite in size, as having no spatial limits but simply extending forever, which may or may not have infinitely many objects in it because that depends on whether or not Equal Matter Distribution is true across all areas of it.


      The reason why some cosmologists think the universe is infinite in extent is because it's shape is flat, like an Euclidian plane, which means it could be infinite in extent at least theoretically, even though that cannot even in principle be confirmed empirically, both because it is impossible to explore an entire infinite, and because of the Dark Energy which makes more distant corners of the universe unavailable for detection, perhaps forever.



      "An actual infinity of things is not theologically objectionable to me, because it need not imply that there are infinitely many copies of the Milky Way or anything like that. An actual infinity of beings need not imply that a specific being will be "repeated" infinitely many times or even that each kind of thing has infinitely many instances in the universe. There can be infinitely many distinct beings in that sense, so I don't think theological worries would apply here. "


      While this could be a possibility, the thing is, if matter distribution is uniformly equal for the entire universe, then, given the infinite amount of matter to work with, it is eventually bound to happen that the matter will arrange itself in a copy of the Milky Way which will house further "copies" of ourselves in it as well.


      Heck, Tegmark calculated the distance between us and our nearest cosmic "twin"!


      And while it is possible for there to be an infinite amount of objects in the universe that never repeat, given infinity, it seems somewhat likely that there should eventually be copies of our galaxy and even persons akin to ourselves as well, given that infinity means that all probabilities, no matter how unlikely, will eventually be actualised, given an infinite amount of matter to work with.




      Oh, and one more question, if you don't mind, relating to infinity in nature:


      The equations for black holes and their event horizons predict that when light is being eaten by one such black hole, the red shift generated will increase to infinity, meaning that we likely may have an actual infinite force in the universe already, especially given how black holes may have other infinite qualities, such as them being miniature singularities entailing infinite density because they break the fabric of space time.


      Of course, one could argue that this is making the mistake of reifying mathematical models beyond their respective capacity, and as such the model may only be a model if arguments could be made to the effect that physical infinities of any kind were metaphysically impossible.


      What do you think?



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  6. Nice piece of reasoning - last para sums it up.

    "Concomitant effects", minus some independent field or aether for these effects to impinge upon, does sound, in the final reduction, a lot like emanations.

    Frankly, in this present and technological world wherein virtual realities (speaking casually) are produced in what are quite qualitatively different, if not unconnected domains, it does not seem problematical to posit that time and space, as real as they might be in our frame of reference, need not carry the theological freight formerly imagined.

    I'm not a Platonist, but it looks to be increasingly obvious that the world of our experience can be on the one hand perfectly real and independent of our particular minds from one frame of reference, but a mere shadowland (to steal a phrase) from another.

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  7. Weird. I've been reading this blog for years and only just noticed Ed puts two spaces between sentences.

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    1. Oh you betcha, Kiel. I'm a die hard on that. Copy editors hate me.

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    2. Man, I suddenly feel less confidence in everything on the blog....

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    3. It's without a doubt his worst quality.

      By the way, in middle school my English teacher chastised me for not double-spacing, oblivious that I was actually following correct style (double spacing was only used for monospace).

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    4. My rather large employer insists on 2 spaces for all correspondence and memoranda. Which amounts to many trees a day.

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    5. Ed, you do that on purpose? Man, it's bugged me for years – thought obviously not enough to make me stop reading the blog. Still, I now feel better knowing there is a Final Cause involved, and it's not just one of those farmer-finds-a-treasure-in-his-field situations. ;-)

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    6. As though we needed more evidence that Ed is stuck in the past.

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    7. As though we needed more evidence that Ed is stuck in the past.

      I thought we had evolved past the use of such comments. As though we needed more evidence that Greg is stuck in the past.

      Wait....

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    8. I've given up on the two-spaces-after-periods rule. However, I absolutely will not surrender the penultimate Oxford comma in lists. You have to take a stand somewhere.

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    9. As though we needed more evidence that Ed is stuck in the past.

      I thought we had evolved past the use of such comments. As though we needed more evidence that Greg is stuck in the past.

      Wait....


      I thought we had evolved past the use of such comments. As though we needed more evidence that Greg & René are stuck in the past.

      Wait....

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  8. Fifth, the position Craig attributes to Newton is not really a coherent one, at least not on a Thomistic metaphysical analysis.

    Well, one might suppose that Newton would simply insist on a different metaphysics. The question would then be whether he has indicated, or even hinted at, what such a metaphysics that he would be relying on would look like? And if so, would it even be even remotely plausible?

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    1. Assuming you are the same Tony from WWWTW, do you know what's happened? The site hasn't been updated for a while

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  9. But if they cannot not exist, then time and space must be purely actual and there must be in them no distinction between essence and existence. But in that case they are divine attributes, since only of God can these things be said.

    What about necessary truths such as mathematical truths? These "cannot not exist", correct? But we also wouldn't call these divine attributes, right?

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    1. My understanding of the AT position is that mathematical truths are true (or "exist") only insofar as they are realized by actual existing things.

      So, 2+2=4 is true only if there are two actual things, and also two other actual things, which together make four things.

      On this view, if God had not elected to create anything, then 2+2=4 would not have been true, because it would not have been about anything. That is, there would have been no numbers, and hence nothing about which it could be saying something truthful.

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  10. And he never splits infinitives! (Actually I caught him once. I was shocked, shocked).

    By the way, I was taught to put two spaces between sentences (and after colons). Is this not typical?

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    1. I looked into it once; it's a weirdly complicated question. The most common standard has always been one wide space (usually, but not always, understood as one the size of a capital M). When typewriters became common, the easiest way to get an approximate wide space that was more-or-less consistent among different kinds of typewriters, was to two-space. (Contrary to common claims, though, two-spacing was not only due to typewriters, for the very obvious reason that people use different fonts and formats, and you have to do different things with different fonts and formats to make them look right. Typewriting didn't lead to two-spacing but to its becoming the most common standard.) As electric typewriting became common, typewriters and later word processing software would automatically put in a wide space, or at least whatever definition of wide space it was programmed with. Style guides started recommending one space rather than two in about the sixties or seventies, as far as I can tell (although I've never looked closely), but the two-space approach is still quite common.

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    2. Very interesting, thanks.

      So it sounds like the wide space between sentences is the 'spatial' equivalent to an em-dash.

      I had never even considered whether my word processor automatically puts in a wide space. Quick googling indicates that Microsoft Word does not, so looks like my two-space habit is safe for now.

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  11. So, then, is time greater than space (or double space) or not? Or should I be ashamed of myself?

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  12. There seem a lot of problems here.

    "First, it would entail that the act of creation was not free (or at least that the creation of space and time was not free). For according to this thesis, God cannot not create time and space."

    No it wouldn't. It would imply that God did not create time and space - any more than he created truth or love - but it would not therefore follow that the creation itself did not occur voluntarily.

    Feser has convinced "the creation" with "the creation of time and space". Obviously they are totally different. In fact, I believe St Thomas was willing to entertain the idea that the universe has existed forever.

    "Second, for God to create of necessity would detract from his perfection."

    This error stems from the first. I don't think I need to elaborate.

    "A third problem is that if the existence of time and space follows necessarily from God’s existence, then not only did they have no beginning but they in principle could not have had a beginning. This would not conflict with classical theism per se, but it would conflict with any version of classical theism which incorporates biblical revelation."

    Again, wrong. In the beginning God created the HEAVEN AND THE EARTH. NOT space and time.

    I think that Feser is entangling modern theories of the emergence of space and time - which are barely a century old - with Newton's views of the universe which rested on an entirely different set of empirical evidences.

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  13. On the medieval disputation on whether God creates prime matter or not, if I recall well I think Aquinas takes the negative side. If this is so, then I fail to see how the fifth argument herein doesn't cut either way.

    NB. Only playing Devil's Advocate here.

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    1. I don't recall Aquinas saying anything like that. Do you have a cite you are thinking of?

      Offhand, I would think Thomas saying "God did not create prime matter" would be completely contrary to everything he held on matter and form, substance and accident. Unless, that is, the question was phrased: "Did God create prime matter before he created material substances?" The negative applies to the timing, not to the creativity. The question is not whether God created prime matter, but of the ordering: prime matter is not created before material beings, but with them.

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  14. Ed, would you be willing to address Divine Simplicity again. I really would like to see if you can explain to me once and for all if WLC's issue is psychological or philosophical in nature.

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  15. Time and space aren't material or spiritual things, so maybe they are an exception to Thomist rules

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  16. What if time and space are metaphysical ideas created by God? So we have a "three-tier" reality: uncreated (God), metaphysical (ideas and rational beings), material

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    1. What would it mean for reality to be an "idea" though? Aren't ideas by definition existent only within a mind and in no other sense?

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    2. Well if all the ideas exists only within a mind this means that are real only in a mind. Thus i.e. my idea of number is not the same as yours because my mind is not yours. What exists in our minds I call it "concepts", a concept is a "idea created by a mind". We can say that extra-mind ideas exists outside our minds (the Ideas) as concepts in God's mind but this, imho, means that we can't know the Ideas. Moreover if the Ideas are real only in God's mind then there's no real metaphysical object, therefore the reality is not ordered by the Principles, like the principle of identity or the PSR.

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  17. How did Newton's anti Trinatarianism shape his absolutist view of time and space?

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  18. I thank Feser for not turning his blog into an apology for Trump rather than a philosophy blog like the Maverick Man has done. I can't believe he has concluded Trump is the man to defend so enthusiastically and righteously. Finally deleted the Maverick Man's blog from by bookmarks.

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    1. Do you mean Maverick Philosopher?

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    2. AKG again? The Maverick Philosopher has made a few pieces on Trump. Big wow? Most of what he has been discussing is the genuinely worrying acts of the FBI, which you don't have to be a Trump supporter to be concerned about.

      If there's anything worse than a rabid Trump supporter, its a rabid anti-Trumper.

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    3. Just type Trump into his search engine and see the dozens of post on Trump, mostly defenses of him, while calling the anti-Trump Republicans "pussies". Cute.

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    4. You forget ‘crap-weasels’

      I have to concur re Bill’s blog. I have nothing against his arguing against in favour of the Trumo administration or Trump man should he wish, but the tone has descended to little more than vulgar name calling (whilst the Logical Positivists were wrong in their linguistic attack on Metaphysics the emotivist account perfectly captures B V’s insults - pejoratives such as ‘crap-weasel’ have no intellectual content being merely the bellowing of an animal in enraged).

      I find the man’s whole world view monstrously hypocritical. Everything attempt to arrive at truth through rational means ends in fist-banging ‘meta-philosophical scepticism’, yet we are constantly ear-bashed over why we have to enforce X political decisions. He attempts to defend this by appeal to practical reasons in that only conservatism provides an environment in which philosophy can flourish (there which one might respond ‘how’ and ‘why ought one to care’ - if reason can achieve nothing why not just push a dagger to an opponent’s throat and claim ‘this my argument for X philosophical position).

      Further sins of the Maverick can be provided. His secular deification of America being one of them.

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    5. I haven't been to Bill's blog in a while, so I went over to see what all the fuss was about. I looked at the first page and the characterizations here seem over blown. There's partisanship, sure, and the occasional put down, and not all might be as insightful or interesting as you might hope for, but it hardly looks like he has descended into inlo throwing vulgar insults. If the original anon was indeed AKG, Bill is still far above him and his SJW subreddit mates.

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    6. I have also been surprised at the tone Vallicella's blog has taken over the past year or so. If someone didn't know who he was and happened to read his partisan political posts one could easily guess that he sat around watching Hannity every day and listened to Limbaugh and formed his opinions from them. Apparently his gripe is with the "bow-tide" brigade who "scribble" all day but do nothing -- those on the right opposed to Trump (as any Conservative, as opposed to populist or nationalist, should be). He often posts, approvingly, long quotes littered with insults from far right writers whose characterization of the left is so overstated that it borders on the absurd.

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    7. The use of terms like far right to characterize what are pretty mainstream right-wing views doesn't fill me with confidence that this isn't all partisans attacking someone of a different, if outspoken, opinions. Can you name these far rightists he takes long quotes from? The only long quote I recall was from a National Review columnist. I really hope that isn't what is meant by far right.

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    8. FWIW, he often calls David Horowitz "his man" because he agrees with him so often. Pretty hard to get more incendiary than that.

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    9. So in fact, not far right figures at all then. This is looking more and more like partisan whining.....

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    10. Wait, it is your opinion that Horowitz is a moderate figure in American politics?

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    11. Yeah, seems like a pretty reasonable guy: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-captive-mind-of-trump-true-believer-david-horowitz

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    12. AKG, Who said anything about him being moderate or reasonable? Do you know what far right means? Horowitz is a partisan hack, sure, but are many leftwing journalists politicians, such as Elizabeth Warren. These folks too are often neither moderate nor reasonable. That doesn't make one far right or far left. As suspected this is all just leftists attacking a rightist for not being a leftist. Yawn!

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    13. Can I ask, do you consider the president of the United States far right? How about Pence and Paul Ryan? What about Ted Cruz? How about Hannity and Limbaugh, who you brought up?

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    14. @Anonymous:

      "FWIW, he often calls David Horowitz "his man" because he agrees with him so often."

      I believe you are confusing David Horowitz with Victor Davis Hanson.

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  19. We need to get Feser in the same room as Peterson

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtf4FDlpPZ8

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    1. I think that would only work with a series of talks. Much as I like Peterson, it would take a while to clear up the underlying philosophy. He's got some base assumptions which would lead to a single talk going nowhere.

      If I could add a third, I suggest Scruton. (Ed and Roger would be my dream podcast. Or should I say Sir Roger.)

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    2. Why would you think a charlatan like Peterson should talk with Ed? Peterson would actually have to learn some philosophy to make that talk marginally useful.

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  20. Feser wrote, "Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of nature does not take an absolutist position (though it does not exactly take a relationalist position either)."

    I hope that you'll describe the AT position on space at some point.

    Discussions of time tend to get bogged down in tired A/B-theory disputes. But space seems like it would be a more interesting topic, one which might raise really novel issues for most modern readers.

    From what I remember, Aristotle's conception of space is different from any of the standard modern alternatives. As I recall, it's something like this: A region of space is identified by the inner surface of whatever encloses it. Without an enclosure to serve this purpose, there is no space.

    Thus, the space occupied by the water in a fish tank is identified by the inner surface of the tank enclosing it. Suppose that you remove the water from the tank, leaving it empty. You would like to be able to speak of "the space that the water formerly occupied." You would like to treat this space as if it were something that had been there while the water was also there, coextensive with the water and yet separate from it. Furthermore, you would like to say that this space remained in that location, retaining its identity, before, during, and after the water was removed. And you can speak this way. But this is only because the inner surface of the tank is still there, giving identity to the space that persists now that the water is no more.

    Suppose now that the tank itself is removed, even annihilated. Then the space it formerly occupied could still be identified with reference to the inner surface of the air that used to bound it. And if in turn the air were removed, then the space that it used to occupy could be identified by the inner surface of the celestial sphere that formerly contained the air. And so on, working outward, container by container, to the outermost celestial sphere.

    But, suppose finally that this last celestial sphere were annihilated, so that no container remained. Then, contra Kant, one would not be left with empty unoccupied space. There would be no space at all, for there would be no inner surface of an enclosure with reference to which any such space could be identified.

    Or, at any rate, that was how I understood Aristotle's position. Is that remotely right?

    If that is right, how much of it is retained in contemporary AT natural philosophy? Aristotle could make sense of a unified cosmic space in this way because he thought that everything was enclosed in a literal solid outermost celestial sphere. The common cosmic space that we all occupy could then be identified with the inner surface of this outermost celestial sphere.

    Does AT natural philosophy retain this conception of space? Does AT still posit some outermost material enclosure to give this space definition?

    I look forward to your characteristically lucid explanation of the AT account of space.

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  21. Dr. Feser,

    I'm currently working on a senior essay for my Physics & Philosophy major. The essay deals with a theologian named Thomas Torrance and his interactions with Thomist metaphysics.

    After reading this post, I was curious what a Thomist account of space would be (instead of the Newtonian one which you critique in the article). If it's not an absolutist theory of space nor a relational theory of space, what would it be? Are there resources that you would recommend for this topic? I've been reading Cardinal Mercier's Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy, but was also looking for contemporary accounts.

    Thanks for the posts you put out.

    Best,
    Max Graham

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