## Saturday, June 23, 2012

### A Simple Defense of the Modal Third Way

My most recently revised version of the Modal Third Way (MTW) goes like this:

1. Something cannot come from nothing. (Premise)

2. If something presently exists, then there was never a past time at which nothing existed. (Implied by 1)

3. Something presently exists. (Premise)

4. Hence, there was never a past time at which nothing existed. (From 1 - 3)

5. It is either necessarily the case that some temporally contingent entity or other has always existed, or a temporally necessary entity exists. (Implied by 4)

6. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed. (Premise)

7. Therefore, a temporally necessary entity exists. (From 5 and 6)

The temporally necessary entity N must also be eternal, since there is no time at which something temporally necessary can fail to exist.  Finally, N must be very powerful if it is capable of causing something as vast as the sum total of contingent entities C.

The only way out of this argument for the skeptic is to deny (6).  In their assertion, some contingent entity or other must have always existed, given the present existence of something, anything.  However, this view is highly implausible.  As Alexander Pruss so eloquently asked: would the non-existence of all non-unicorns imply that a unicorn exists?  Surely not.  Why, then, would the non-existence of every other temporally contingent entity imply that some additional temporally contingent entity exists?  Once again, it wouldn't.

Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that C could have possibly failed to exist as some past time.  Think of it this way.  If every part of a house can fail to exist, then the house as a whole can fail to exist, as well.  Yes, there are instances in which the whole is not like its parts.  One popular expression is that just because every part of a mountain is small, that doesn't mean the mountain as a whole is small.

The problem with the charge of a composition fallacy is that there are many instances in which the whole is like its parts.  If every part of a mountain is made of rock, then the mountain as a whole must be made of rock.  So, which category do contingent entities fall into?  In addition to the argument advanced above, there is simply no reason to think of C as necessary, especially because each of its parts is contingent.  Moreover, there is no apparent contradiction in postulating C's possible non-existence.  Nothing contingent has to exist.

If these are the best objections skeptics can come up with against the MTW, then I think we're safe to say that the MTW is a knockdown and bulletproof argument for the existence of a necessary, eternal and very powerful entity.  The funny thing is atheists shouldn't be so reluctant to accept this conclusion.  After all, many of them hold to the temporal necessity of matter and energy.  I propose that theists and atheists alike ought to accept the MTW as a rationally compelling argument.  The only remaining disagreement is over whether N has any additional properties that would further bridge the gap between N and God.  I think there are, but I'll save that for another post.

1. Doug,

I can't guarantee I'll have time for a full discussion, but for now, I have the following questions:

a) With regard to premise 1), if you're saying that something can't be caused by nothing, that's obviously true. But if you're saying that it is impossible for there to be a time at which nothing exists, followed by a time at which it does, that seems only clearly true if time counts as 'something'; else, I do not see why believe that.

By the way, what kind of possibility are we talking about?

b) With regard to 5), how does it follow from 4)?

Using possible worlds, it seems compatible with that it's not necessarily the case that any entity existed, and yet in the past, at the actual world, some temporally contingent being existed.

c) With regard to 6), why should we accept such a premise?
Even accepting that possibly, there is a temporally necessary entity and no temporally contingent entity, that would not say that possibly, in our past, there is no temporally contingent entity. In terms of worlds, a world at which no temporally contingent entity exists might be possible but not accessible from our world, as far as I can tell.

d) With regard to the claim that there is no time at which a temporally necessary entity can fail to exist, if we go by the definition of 'temporally contingent' given at (www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Reli/ReliMayd.htm), a temporally necessary entity seems to be (the definition is not so clear) one that can't be brought into existence, and can't be destroyed. But even if such entity possibly existed, then it would not follow that such entity necessarily existed, afaik.

For all I know, It might be that there is a world W1 at which, at every time t, entity E existed, and E is temporally necessary, but E does not exist at some world W2, at any time u. That would not seem to contradict temporal necessity.

e) Moreover, let's consider the following scenario, which for all I know, might be possible:

Scenario 1:

At some world W, there is an entity F that exist, and F is such that if it exists, it will always exist, unless something with the power to destroy F destroys it.
Moreover, at W, and there is no entity with the power to destroy F (or with the power to bring about anything that destroys it, etc.); further, nothing comes into existence uncaused at W.
So, at W, F will always exist, and an explanation for F's existing at, say, t, would be F's existing at some u prior to t, and the lack of any entity G with the power to destroy F.

If the universe in the actual world is like F, and the actual world contains no entity with the power to destroy the universe, that would mean that the universe will always exist.

Scenario 1 would be incompatible with your conclusion, but there appears to be no reason to think it's impossible.

2. a) With respect to premise (1), that something cannot come from nothing, I mean that there can be no time or state of affairs at which nothing exists and then out of this spring something into existence. You really see no reason to believe this?

You ask, "By the way, what kind of possibility are we talking about?"

I don't know what you mean by this.

b) I've said as much, but in some of my other works. A thing is temporally necessary if it exists in w1, but it may not exist in w2. With this in mind, (5) follows from (4) as a type of conditional necessity: "necessarily, if something exists at present, then something has always existed." Given that something does exist at present, there are two options: either the present existence of some entity necessitates that some temporally contingent entity or other has always existed, or else a temporally necessary entity exists." There really is no additional alternative.

c) I gave reasons for accepting (6). To say that the non-existence of all temporally contingent entities is not accessible to our world is just to affirm the first half of the disjunction in (5).

d) Exactly. The MTW makes the more modest claim of temporal necessity, and not logical necessity. If Y is temporally necessary, but not logically necessary, then Y's existence in w1 entails that Y must exist at all times in w1. But, there may be another world w2 at which Y does not exist.

e) With respect to scenario 1, I've said as much. As I write: "The funny thing is atheists shouldn't be so reluctant to accept this conclusion. After all, many of them hold to the temporal necessity of matter and energy."

Of course, the "universe" would need to be more narrowly defined as the universe's most fundamental particles, e.g. quarks, strings, or whatever. After all, many of the large scale things in the universe can and do fail to exist.

3. Doug,

I will address a) for now; I will try to address the rest later.

With respect to premise 1), of course, it may be that time requires beings, by the meaning of the words. But you seem to need that assumption.

Else, it surely does not appear to be strictly logically impossible.

In other words, assuming that time without beings isn't strictly logically impossible, for there to be a scenario without any beings at t, followed by a scenario with one being at t+3 (for instance).

Now, the question is: is it also metaphysically possible (if that's the possibility we're talking about)?

But what does that mean?

I'd have to go on a tangent about metaphysical (im)possibility:

A common example of this is 'Water is not H2O'.
It's not strictly logically impossible that scientists are mistaken about the composition of water, and so water is not H2O.

However, given that water is H2O at the actual world, a scenario in which there is water but isn't H2O is not possible. But that seems to me simply because the meaning of the word 'water' is such that the referent is fixed by whatever composition water actually has, and so saying that water is actually H2O,

Following that example, a hypothesis would be that X is metaphysically impossible iff X is logically impossible considering the meaning of the words whose referent is fixed by the properties things have at the actual world.

If so, it seems clear that there is no metaphysically necessary being, since it seems clear that there is no contradiction in stipulating that there are no beings, and that does not change depending on the properties of things that exist in the actual world.

Someone might say: But what about, say, the number 3? Isn't it impossible to say that it does not exist?

I think that conflating mathematics or other ideal domains with domains of real things is not justified, but for instance, the number 3 exists in the set of real numbers, but does not exist in the set of negative integers.
There is no contradiction in asserting non-existence in that sense of 'exists'.
Someone might say that that's not the relevant sense of 'exists', and that there is a sense in which it's logically impossible for the number 3 not to exist. But what sense is that?

In any case, there appears to be no contradiction in denying the existence of concrete particulars.

Also, there appears to be no impossibility in a scenario in which nothing exists at t, and something exists at, say, t+1 (for instance), as long as we assume that time can exist without beings (which I'm not sure about, but the hypothesis seems required).

Perhaps, that hypothesis about metaphysical impossibility isn't correct, but then, it seems reasonable to ask: What does 'metaphysical impossibility' mean?

Another question would be: Why should we assume that a scenario in which nothing exists at t, but something does at t+3 is metaphysically impossible?

Perhaps, a good answer would be that time cannot exist without entities, by the meaning of the words, and so that works. But it requires that specification and some arguing, I think.

4. The talk about there not being a metaphysically necessary being, the existence of numbers, and so forth, is off topic. Here's another way of thinking about the first premise:

1'. If x1 comes into being, x1 comes from some existing entity x2.

To say that a denial of either (1) or (1') does not entail a logical contradiction isn't pertinent, since we're talking about the real world. Whether or not x1 can come into being in w2 apart from any x2 has no bearing on the MTW.

5. Besides, I think there are cases of necessary synthetic propositions:

Something cannot come from nothing. (Metaphysics)

It's wrong to torture children for fun. (Ethics)

"Hey Jude" is a more beautiful song than "Pants on the Ground." (Aesthetics)

But, I digress. :)

6. Regarding b), you say: "A thing is temporally necessary if it exists in w1, but it may not exist in w2."

While 'may' seems to indicate epistemic possibility, I'm not sure how that would make sense.
Besides, Obama exists at the actual world, but arguably there is a world at which he does not exist. Going by what you say above, I would get the impression that he's temporally necessary, but I do not think that that's what you meant.

So, in the meantime, I would go by the definition of "temporally contingent" I found (since you said 'exactly' in reply), even though it's somewhat ambiguous, but please clarify if you meant something else by 'temporally contingent'.

As for c), I disagree.

To say that our world is such that the non-existent of all temporally contingent entities is not accessible to our world is not the same as affirming the first half of the disjunction in 5).
It may be that the world is such that there is no causal way of getting from here to a scenario with no temporally contingent or no contingent entities, because if we count all the actual entities with their causal powers, none of them has the power to bring about (directly or by starting a chain or web of causes, etc.) anything but some limited outcomes, and none of those outcomes leads to the non-existence of all such entities.

It does not have to do with the existence of non-existence of other things, like unicorns; indeed, I see no good reason to suppose that the non-existence of all temporally contingent, contingent or even all entities is impossible (no contradiction seems to follow if I stipulate that there is no entity, and regardless of how things are at the actual world), but that does not mean that given how things are at the actual world, there is some entity with the causal power to make every temporally contingent being disappear.

d) But then again, how does 5) follow from 4)?

Could you please give a logical derivation of 5) from 4), plus perhaps some accepted premises?

Why can't it be the case that there is no temporally necessary entity at the actual world A, but also there is no past time at A at which nothing existed, even if it's not necessarily the case that some temporally contingent entity exists.

Let me put it in other words. Can you find a contradiction in the following statements?

P1: At W1, no entity exists (if you're thinking about numbers, propositions, etc., I think that they shouldn't be counted, but in that case let's simplify and say 'At W1, no concrete particulars exist".
P2: At the actual world A, there is no temporally necessary being.
P3: At any time t in the past, at A, there is at least one temporally contingent being.

If no contradiction follows from that, then given that P3 seems to be the equivalent of 4), and P1 and P2 entail a negation of 5), then 5) does not follow from 4).

e) Yes, the 'universe' needs to be clarified. Maybe spacetime is like that (epistemic possibility), but that aside, I do not pick whether or not to accept an argument.
My choice is whether to read an argument and think about it, not whether or not to accept it once I've read it and thought about it (that part just happens to me).
I often reject arguments given by atheists, by the way.

7. b) Of course Obama is temporally contingent and he's logically contingent.

You say, "To say that our world is such that the non-existent of all temporally contingent entities is not accessible to our world is not the same as affirming the first half of the disjunction in 5)."

The first half of the disjunction of (5) is this: it is necessarily the case [in the actual world] that some temporally contingent entity or other has always existed.

This is logically identical to saying that our world exists in such a way that the non-existence of all temporally contingent entities is impossible, or "not accessible."

Things don't have to have the power to cause the non-existence of other things in order for the MTW to be a sound argument. But again, to say that there is no causal way of getting to a point where all temporally contingent entities fail to exist is identical to it is necessarily the case [in the actual world] that some temporally contingent entity or other has always existed. Remember, this is a conditional necessity.

d) I explained the inference from (4) to (5) by conditional necessity. If something has always existed, then there was never a past time at which nothing existed. This means that for each time t, at t1 some temporally contingent entity c1 must have existed, and at t2 either c1 or c2 must have existed, and at t3 either c1 or c2 or c3 must have existed, and so forth. If we suppose there is some past time t4 at which no c exists, but something exists at the present t5, then something must have still existed at t4 and that something could only be some temporally necessary entity n1.

Remember, there is no past time at which nothing existed.

You ask, "Why can't it be the case that there is no temporally necessary entity at the actual world A, but also there is no past time at A at which nothing existed, even if it's not necessarily the case that some temporally contingent entity exists."

Because the possibility of nothing temporally contingent at some past time would imply the conditional necessity of some c or other existing at all times, which is contradictory.

Your example of P1, P2 and P3 does not include anything about the present existence of anything. P3 is not the equivalent of (4), since (4) includes present existence by its extension of (3).

e) Whether you can choose to believe or not isn't important. Rather, it's that the MTW (as stated) is consistent with atheism and has conclusions that many atheists apparently agree with.

8. b) Regarding Obama, my point is that by the definition of 'temporally necessary' that you gave (i.e., "A thing is temporally necessary if it exists in w1, but it may not exist in w2."), he seems to be temporally necessary (though 'may' is unclear, as it seems to indicate epistemic possibility, but that wouldn't work in this context).

Since you did not mean to imply that Obama is temporally necessary, it seems to me that you made some mistake in that definition. So, I was trying to see if you could please correct it. But if not, I can go with the definition I found elsewhere, since you replied 'exactly', but it's not too clear, either.

c) You say: "The first half of the disjunction of (5) is this: it is necessarily the case [in the actual world] that some temporally contingent entity or other has always existed. "

Hold on. (5) does not say 'in the actual world'.
That's a big difference.

How do you construe 'necessarily the case in the actual world?'

Also, let's say that there is no way of causally access a world in which there is no temporally contingent entity from the actual world. I do not see what the problem is.

The arguments Pruss makes do not seem to apply here. Unicorns do not have to do with it. Perhaps, in our world, energy/mass is conserved because all how all of the actual entities are. So, some of them might be destroyed, but the result would be energy, which means photons, spacetime remains, etc.

But with that new interpretation of 5), there are other issues, such as:

Is that 'possibly' about the actual world too, or is it a run of the mill modal operator?

That's a big difference. If it's about the actual world, then how do you apply the 'possible' operator?

In addition to that, there are more issues. For instance, you say: "Why, then, would the non-existence of every other temporally contingent entity imply that some additional temporally contingent entity exists?  Once again, it wouldn't."

It might be that time is such that, by the meaning of the words, there can be no time without entities. I do not know about that, but the following dilemma ensues:

Let's consider the following proposition: P2: It is logically impossible for there to be time without entities.

If P2 is not true, then I see no good reason to accept premise 1).
Indeed, it appears that it's not contradictory that there is nothing at some time t, and something at some time t+3, for example.

If P2 is true, then I see no good reason to accept premise 6, regardless of whether it's about the actual world.
Why would the lack of some temporally contingent entity means that some other such entity exists?
Actually, what happens under P2 is that it's logically impossible that time exists without entities, so asserting that there is some time t in the past entails that there is some such entity at t, by the meaning of the words. But if that is the case, then I see no good reason to think that such entity has to be temporally necessary.

Question: do you hold that P2 is true, false, or have no opinion on the matter?

9. Also, I have a couple of questions about temporal necessity:

Let's suppose the actual world is such that there is no entity with the power to destroy or create space (or something we may precise if required). If so, given that space exists and no such entity exists, space will always exist, and there is no causal way of accessing a world at which space does not exist.

Yet, for all we know there might be another world W at which a similar space is created and/or destroyed by some thing E that has the power to do so.

1) Would that mean that space is temporally necessary in our world, but not in W?

2) Would that mean that the space at W is not the same as the space at the actual world, but our space is temporally necessary but not the space at W, precisely because of the presence of E at W?

3) Something else? In any case, would space be temporally necessary in that case?

10. b) If you look back, I gave a more thorough definition of temporally necessary. "If Y is temporally necessary, but not logically necessary, then Y's existence in w1 entails that Y must exist at all times in w1." You were quoting only part of what I said later on, when I was just clarifying that temporal necessity doesn't necessarily entail logical necessity.

c) I added "in actual world" for the sake of clarity, since it seemed you were interpreting what I was saying as somehow entailing logical necessity. I had qualified it earlier by talking about conditional necessity, but that didn't appear clear enough.

You ask, "How do you construe 'necessarily the case in the actual world?'"

By what can happen in the actual world. Necessarily (in actual world), oak trees come from acorns, even if there's a possible world at which they come from zebras.

The possibility premise (6) of refers to the actual world. We know that temporally contingent things can and do fail to exist. It's a fair inference to take that and conclude that it's possible for there to have been a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed.

It seems to me that there can be entities without time, and that time itself is an entity of sorts. None of that really matters, though. We can modify (1): if nothing exists, then nothing can begin to exist.

Although "begin" is a temporal term, there's no time that precedes it.

You define space as temporally necessary in A, but not in W. Doesn't that answer all three of your questions? If anything X exists in w1, and its existence in w1 entails its indestructability, then it's temporally necessary in w1. If for whatever reason X can be destroyed in w2, then of course X is temporally contingent in w2.

11. b) I was quoting what appeared to be your definition of temporally necessary in the first post in which you replied to me. Later in that post, you said in reply to a description of 'temporally necessary' that I gave, but that did not seem to me like your definition.

Thanks for the clarification.

c) It's almost certain that with sufficient tech one can make oak trees without acorns, but still, it appears to me it's sort of causal necessity or something along those lines, given what exists in the actual world. I could go with that.

You say: "The possibility premise (6) of refers to the actual world. We know that temporally contingent things can and do fail to exist. It's a fair inference to take that and conclude that it's possible for there to have been a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed."

I do not agree with that.
At least, it does not seem to me like a fair inference from that.
It may be that all substances are temporally contingent, but their causal powers are such that they can only bring about a limited number of substances, including some kinds of remains if they cease to exist.

More generally, your argument attempts to show that there is at least one temporally necessary being at the actual world. However, the choice of worlds is not relevant to the premises, in the sense that if the argument succeeded, it would show that at every possible world, there is at least one temporally necessary entity, even though such entity might vary from world to world.

However, it seems at least prima facie conceivable that that is not the case.

For, the following world W appears possible, at least to me:

At time t, there are only temporally contingent entities. No such entity has the causal power to destroy them all, and those entities also have causal powers to change themselves and/or others, or make other contingent entities at the expense of themselves (e.g., if they get destroyed, there is some remains, which constitutes other entities, and so on).

By some time t+u, all of the entities that existed at t have ceased to exist. But there are other entities. Why? Because the entities that existed in the past changed and/or were destroyed, resulting (given the powers of the previous entities, etc.) in new ones, and so on.

This isn't about unicorns and non-unicorns, but about entities with limited causal powers to change into other entities, be destroyed leaving some specific kinds of remains, etc.

That scenario appears prima facie possible; I'm not saying it's actual, but your argument, if successful, would have to rule that out. But there appears to be no prima facie reason to do so, at least as far as I can tell.

In fact, the above scenario would appear possible even under the assumption that there is a temporally necessary being in the actual world (of course, if such an assumption were accepted, you would no longer need the argument, but that's beside my point).

So, the argument appears unpersuasive to me, regardless of the existence of temporally necessary beings, or lack thereof.

It may be, for all I know, that space or something else is temporally necessary in our world. What do I know?
Modern physics has revealed serious weirdness in the universe, and the world might be much bigger even than we know, so I'm not certain one way or another.

You say: "You define space as temporally necessary in A, but not in W. Doesn't that answer all three of your questions? "
I was trying to get what you meant by "temporally necessary" more clearly. Thanks for the clarification.

12. Clarification:

If your argument succeeded, it would mean that there is at least one temporally necessary entity at every world that is non-empty (the issue of the possibility of the empty world would not be affected); the rest is the same as in the post just submitted before this one.

13. A couple of other issues:

You said: "It seems to me that there can be entities without time, and that time itself is an entity of sorts."

I was asking whether there could be time without entities, not entities without time.

Still, given that you say that time is an entity, we have the following:

D1) If time is temporally contingent, then premise 6. is not only dubious, but false, since at any past time there was at least one temporally contingent entity, namely time.
D2) If time is temporally necessary, then there you have a temporally necessary entity.

However, it's not possible for there to be time without entities in that case.

You said: "Something cannot come from nothing. (Metaphysics)

It's wrong to torture children for fun. (Ethics)"

If by 'something cannot come from nothing' you mean that if nothing exists (not even time), nothing would, well that seems analytical to me, because if at a world W something exists, it does not seem to make sense that there is a previous state S1 at W at which nothing does, since S1 can't be a temporal state (else, time would exist), or an atemporal causally prior state even if such atemporal states made sense, because if nothing exists at S1, S1 can't be causally prior to anything.

If by 'something cannot come from nothing' you mean that nothing can come into being without a cause, I do not agree that that's true, even though it may be true at the actual world.

As for 'it's wrong to torture children for fun', it may be synthetic, but in any case, 'water is H2O' is synthetic, so I have no problem with synthetic necessities. What happens is that the meaning of 'water' is such that the referent at the actual world fixes the referent, so it's a matter of language, even if not one of analyticity. I have no objection to that (you seem to have misunderstood my interpretation of necessity).

But I digress too...

14. Misunderstandings are pretty much inevitable in ordinary discussions, so it's no surprise to me that they arise in complex philosophical debates.

Your scenario of something temporally necessary or other always existing is an interesting one. As you say, it's consistent with there being a temporally necessary entity.

You say, "By some time t+u, all of the entities that existed at t have ceased to exist. But there are other entities. Why? Because the entities that existed in the past changed and/or were destroyed, resulting (given the powers of the previous entities, etc.) in new ones, and so on."

Notice, though, that this must be the case in order for (6) to be denied. Think of the analogy I gave in the OP. If every part of a mountain possibly fails to exist, then it's reasonable to conclude that the mountain as a whole possibly fails to exist. What's the difference between this and the failure of C as a whole failing to exist?

I admit it's hard for me to get my head around the notion that temporally contingent entities can only give rise to other temporally contingent entities, and not simply fail to exist as a whole. What we would have is a temporally necessary fact without any temporally necessary entity.

As for time, yes, it could be viewed as temporally necessary. However, one could raise the issue of whether there can be an undifferentiated time logically prior to any change. This isn't important, though.

15. Doug,

You say: "Notice, though, that this must be the case in order for (6) to be denied. Think of the analogy I gave in the OP. If every part of a mountain possibly fails to exist, then it's reasonable to conclude that the mountain as a whole possibly fails to exist. What's the difference between this and the failure of C as a whole failing to exist?"

Actually, it only must be the case given the conditions at the actual world.

And frankly, there is nothing intuitively less plausible as far as I can tell than the alternative.

For instance, let us consider the two following scenarios:

S5: All of the substances in a world W1 are such that they can be destroyed, but only have the powers to make some specific substances, and that includes the fact that if they are destroyed, they can only leave some specific remains, etc.

So, given that such substances exist, and no other substance exists at W, it cannot be the case that all temporally contingent substances cease to exist.

S6: There is a substance S2 at world W2 such that no other substance can create it, and no other substance can destroy it. So, it seems S2 is temporally necessary.

S7: There is a substance S3 that does not exist at some time t in W3, but exists at some later time u, and S3 is such that there is nothing in W3 with the causal power to destroy it. So, while S3 is not temporally necessary because it can be caused to exist, it cannot be destroyed.

Personally, I do not have any intuition favoring one over the others.
Moreover, given the weirdness of modern physics, I would say that while our pretheoretical intuitions about causality, time, etc., are reasonably good when it comes to daily life, trying to apply it to the universe as a whole (let alone the whole actual world) is not justified.
But even if we leave that aside and we go by our intuitions on the matter, then I can't make an assessment favoring one scenario over any of the others; you seem to have different intuitions on the matter, so if you go by them, we may have to agree to disagree on that.

However, there are other issues I'd like to address; I'll tackle some of them in the next post.

16. As for the other issues, and leaving aside for the sake of the argument the previous issue of temporally contingent substances making only some other substances, etc., I'd like to elaborate a little bit on the subject of the dilemma involving time, and some of its consequences, and then introduce a second (though similar) dilemma.

The first dilemma is, as above:

D11: If time is temporally contingent, then premise 6. is false.

D12: If time is temporally necessary, then nothing and no one can create or destroy time.

However, in that case, you have a temporally necessary entity N (namely, time), but the gap between N and God can never be breached, of course (i.e, time is not God).

But that, on its own, seems to block the argument: if premise 6. is false, then that's it.
So, let's say that time is temporally necessary. Then, you would need another argument to establish the existence of another temporally necessary entity.

Another issue is the following: unless it's logically necessary that time is temporally necessary if it exists, then it seems it is not the case that 5) follows from 4).

To see this, let's consider the following scenario:

Let's say that let's say that there is a world W1 at which 4) is true, but 5) is not.

So, at W1, there are no temporally necessary entities (time is not temporally necessary there), but there is an initial segment up to some time t, such that at any time prior to t, there is at least one temporally contingent entity.
Later, at some time u > t, all temporally contingent entities cease to exist.

There appears to be no contradiction in that scenario. Yet, that scenario just affirms 4) at that world (prior to t)), whereas it denies 5).

So, we have the second dilemma:

D21: It is logically necessary that if time exists, time is temporally necessary. So, in particular, it's logically impossible to either create or destroy time.
D22: 5) does not follow from 4), and so the argument is invalid.

D22 would block the argument on its own, but D21 is a problem as well, because in that case, in every possible world at which there is time (and, then, at every possible world at which something changes, unless), there is a temporally necessary entity that is not God, and so the gap can never be breached; you would need another argument if you want another temporally necessary entity.

There are other issues, but I'd rather leave it at that for now.

17. Since this isn't an argument for God's existence per se, I have no objection to the notion that time is temporally necessary. Additional arguments may show that time, while temporally necessary, is dependent on God, e.g. as Unmoved Mover or something similar.

In any case, each of your alternative scenarios requires that the present existence of something necessitates that some temporally contingent entity or other has always existed. Although we have some different intuitions about what is possible, your alternatives also necessitate that a temporally necessary fact is the result of mere temporally contingent entities.

Of course, this doesn't even scratch the surface when it comes to arguments involving the PSR, the source of change, and a one-to-one correspondence between an infinite past time and the actualization of all real potentialities (the traditional third way). These issues are somewhat tangential, but my point is that the MTW is not based solely on intuition.

18. Doug,

You say: "In any case, each of your alternative scenarios requires that the present existence of something necessitates that some temporally contingent entity or other has always existed. Although we have some different intuitions about what is possible, your alternatives also necessitate that a temporally necessary fact is the result of mere temporally contingent entities."

Actually, that is only the case of some of my possible scenarios, not of the dilemmas I presented.

My dilemmas do not require that the present existence of something necessitates that some temporally contingent entity has always existed. They are dilemmas, which posit a challenge to the argument.

But I may have been unclear, so let me try one extra dilemma, and then a different counterargument.

D31: If you assume that time is temporally necessary in order to make your argument, the argument begs the question. You have assumed that there is a temporally necessary entity, namely time.
D32: If you do not assume that time is temporally necessary, then it seems that you have no grounds to say that 5) follows from 4), unless time is indestructible.

That's because without assuming the temporal necessity of time, then it might be that time is temporally contingent, and if so, we can consider the following scenario: there are no temporally necessary entities, and yet, at every time in the past, there was a temporally contingent entity, namely time. Moreover, at any time in the future, there will be a temporally contingent entity, namely time, up to a time u at which all temporally contingent entities cease to exist, including time (that would be the end of time).

Still, there might be a successful objection to that objection. Maybe it's logically impossible for time to cease to exist, even if time is not temporally necessary, so it can be caused to exist, but it cannot be destroyed, but that would seem to require some argumentation.

In any case, if your position is that time cannot cease to exist, then there is another objection, which does not rely on any of the above, and straightforwardly shows that the argument begs the question.

According to premise 6, possibly, there was a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed. But surely, at any time in the past, time existed. That means that you are assuming that time is a temporally necessary entity, and so you're assuming that at least one temporally necessary entity exists.

In addition to beg the question, if we start by the assumption that time is a temporally necessary entity, then the argument fails to establish that there is yet another temporally necessary entity (regardless of my intuitions, or yours), since the only conclusion of the argument is that at least one temporally necessary entity exists.

19. Angra, as I stated earlier, I have no issue with calling time temporally necessary. If it happens to be temporally contingent, then there could be some past "time" that is undifferentiated, e.g. without change. Time, in the sense we're talking about now, is a measurement of change, whereas an undifferentiated time is indicative of something that exists changelessly.

Moreover, let's take your scenario in which nothing presently exists, but some temporally contingent entities existed in the past. I don't think it's meaningful to speak of a past without there being an existing present, but let's put that aside for now. The past existence of something temporally contingent was once a present time (assuming an A-theory of time). The MTW would then apply to that, as well. It's my view that the existence of anything concrete requires the existence of something temporally necessary. However, I've chosen to leave that aside for the sake of argument.

20. Doug,

I understand that you have no issue with calling time temporally necessary.

My point is that in order to assert premise 6., you're implicitly assuming that time is temporally necessary, and thus you're implicitly assuming a proposition that, on its own, entails the conclusion.

In other words, I'm saying that the argument assumes what it tries to show.

So, the argument could be simplified as follows:

P1': Time exists.
P2': Time is a temporally necessary entity.
C: Therefore, a temporally necessary exists.

But then any argument from the existence of a temporally necessary entity N to the conclusion that such entity is God (the part about bridging the gap you're talking about) is blocked, since time is not God.

21. Let's assume for the sake of argument that time can cease to exist in w1. Whatever exists at the last moment of time will always exist in an undifferentiated time. This is because ceasing to exist is a type of change, and time is the measurement of change.

From this it follows that at "nothing exists" is necessarily false in w1. This isn't question-begging. It just shows the impossibility of the contrary.

Whether God's existence can be inferred from this requires more argumentation, I agree, but it's not "blocked" in the sense that it makes God's existence any less plausible.

22. Anyway, I've added an additional post on a version of the teleological argument you might be interested in. I realize you're a busy guy, and I am too, so don't feel any need to enter a new debate.

23. Doug,

Okay, let's grant that time cannot cease to exist, or that even if time can cease to exist, everything will necessarily exist.

Then, my point about begging the question remains unaffected, since premise 6. alone implies that time is temporally necessary, and thus premise 6. alone implies the conclusion.

Also, the assumption that time is temporally necessary precludes any attempt to bridge the gap from a temporally necessary entity and God, since time isn't God, and the argument does not show that there is a temporally necessary entity other than time.

As for the other post, thanks but I'm afraid I'll have to pass for now.

24. (6) doesn't beg the question, especially since the way I've later detailed the argument as including a reductio ad absurdum.

I know that this argument alone doesn't establish God's existence. What I'm saying is that it may serve as a starting point for additional evidence in favor of God's existence. Time, for example, may be dependent upon an Unmoved Mover.

25. Premise 6 is the following:

6. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed.

Of course, at any past time, time existed. So, if you're saying that possibly, there was a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed, you're implying that possibly, time is temporally necessary, and so time is temporally necessary. That entails 7., namely that a temporally necessary entity exists, so 6. does beg the question.

But let me ask you: What makes you think that premise 6. is true?

When you think of an answer, you ought to factor in (at the very least) an assumption that time is temporally necessary to make an assertion such as premise 6.

The issue of whether time depends on God does not affect the question-begging objection, since it's an objection to assuming beforehand that at least one temporally necessary entity exists.

The argument does not contain any exclusions to reach the conclusion that a temporally necessary entity other than time exists, so the conclusion is nothing that isn't already assumed, since it's implied by premise 6.

If, on the other hand, you wanted to make a case for the existence of a temporally necessary entity other than time, you would need to modify the premises to exclude time.

26. At the most, (6) only entails that it's analytically true that any world at which time exists, it must be the case that something exists. What's wrong with the following argument?

1. Necessarily, if there is a past, then there is an existing present. (Premise)

2. There is a past. (Premise)

3. Therefore, there is an existing present. (From 1 and 2)

It's not question-begging if (6) leads to this logical conclusion. It simply means that we have another conditional necessity - namely, that for any possible world w1, if w1 has ever contained any concrete objects, then it is never the case that nothing concrete exists in w1.

Of course, we could conceive of possible worlds in which there only exist abstract objects, but that's an entirely different matter.

27. The charge of question-begging is usually reserved for fallacious arguments. If (6), or the expanded reductio I offered are fallacious, then I could understand why you might call them question-begging. But, if we take the latest argument I offered, for example, we find no fallacy. Do you not agree?

28. Doug,

I'd say that the charge of question-begging applies to an argument in which a single premise, on its own, entails the conclusion.

For instance, let's consider the following argument.

1. God exists.
2. If God exists, then God exists.
C: Therefore, God exists.

Surely, that argument is valid. Would you say it begs the question?

But we do not need to use the expression 'begging the question', of course.

So, leaving that expression aside, in any case, in asserting premise 6., you implicitly assume that there is at least one temporally necessary being, which is what you're trying to conclude, and irrespective of what we call that.

Also, if you go back to the original post, you were talking about a temporally necessary entity N that was allegedly very powerful, the cause of all temporally contingent entities, and about bridging the gap between N and God.

It seems clear from that that you were thinking N wasn't time.
However, the argument does not exclude time from the list of temporally necessary entities. The conclusion is only that there is at least one temporally necessary entity, and one implicit assumption of premise 6 is that there is at least one temporally necessary entity, namely time.

So, all you get is what you already assumed: namely, that time is temporally necessary, but that does not give you any entity to bridge the gap.

Granted, you might decide to make a case for the existence of another temporally necessary entity, but that would be a different argument.

29. You don't view time as a powerful force, then? I disagree, but let's leave that aside.

The argument has no resemblance to your example of a question-begging argument. Unless, of course, you think of all deductive arguments as question-begging, we have to take seriously the consequence of the following dilemma:

1. Time is either temporally necessary or temporally contingent.

2. If time is temporally necessary, then something is temporally necessary.

3. If time is temporally contingent, then whatever exists at the last moment of time will always exist in an undifferentiated time.

Either way, ontological nihilism is defeated in any possible world at which time exists.

30. Doug,

You say "You don't view time as a powerful force, then?"
I do not know in which sense you would say that time is a force, or powerful.

However, regardless of that, the point I was making is that the N you were talking about was not time. You said N would have to be very powerful because it's capable of causing something as vast as the sum total of contingent entities C; if there is some sense in which you say time is powerful, so be it, but you were assuming that the entity with the power to cause C (which has its own difficulties, but that aside) was not time.

Moreover, you said: "The only remaining disagreement is over whether N has any additional properties that would further bridge the gap between N and God.  I think there are, but I'll save that for another post".

Given that, and regardless of whether time is in some sense powerful, it's clear that you were not talking about time, which is the point I was trying to make in that part of my post.

As for the issue of whether the argument is question begging, you say: "The argument has no resemblance to your example of a question-begging argument. Unless, of course, you think of all deductive arguments as question-begging, we have to take seriously the consequence of the following dilemma:"

No, I do not think that all deductive arguments are question-begging. I do think a deductive argument in which a single premise, on its own, clearly implies the conclusion, is question-begging. But again, there is no need to settle that. The point is that the argument assumes that time is temporally necessary.

Regarding your dilemma, that's another argument, but we can also point out the following:

4. If time is temporally contingent, then premise 6 of the MTW is false. Since the MTW asserts premise 6., it assumes that time is temporally necessary, and so it has a premise that clearly entails its conclusion.

5. If time is temporally necessary, then time cannot be created or destroyed; further, there is a temporally necessary being that is not God.

I do not know what you mean by 'ontological nihilism'; there are different definitions, so I would ask for a definition (or a link to a definition, etc.), but in any case, that does not affect my previous considerations.

31. That there are other entities that are temporally necessary is not only left open by philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas (whose third way I base this argument on), but is actually asserted: angels, for example. The fact that I say I intend to bridge the gap between N and God leaves open the possibility that the N of the MTW is identical with God or that it is dependent on God, which requires additional argumentation. After all, immediately prior to what you quoted from me, I state, "The funny thing is atheists shouldn't be so reluctant to accept this conclusion. After all, many of them hold to the temporal necessity of matter and energy. I propose that theists and atheists alike ought to accept the MTW as a rationally compelling argument."

In other posts on the MTW, I talk about the argument showing that either God or something "like God" exists, the latter of which could be time, or matter and energy, assuming that these things have temporal necessity.

Your latest premise (4), I think, is incorrect. Supposing that time ceases to exist, for example, N may still exist at every existing time, t1, t2, t3, and so forth, and then simply exist in an undifferentiated time. Thus, N exists at all times.

(5) is impertinent to the argument.

Ontological nihilism is the view that either nothing exists or that it's possible for nothing to exist (modal ontological nihilism).

32. Doug,

My point (one of them, anyway) is that there is no justification even assert the existence of an "N of the MTW", other than time.

As I explained, the MTW does not establish the existence of any temporally necessary entities. Instead, it assumes the existence of a temporally necessary entity (namely, time), and then "concludes" that there is a temporally necessary entity (obviously, since it was assumed already).

The issue of angels and the like does not play a role in that.

Regarding my point 4. (which wasn't meant to be a premise in an argument, but that's a detail), it states:

4. If time is temporally contingent, then premise 6 of the MTW is false. Since the MTW asserts premise 6., it assumes that time is temporally necessary, and so it has a premise that clearly entails its conclusion.

You claim that it's false, arguing that the first part of it is, apparently.
In other words, you're assuming that the following is false:

Q1: If time is temporally contingent, then premise 6 of the MTW is false.

Now, premise 6 of the MTW is the following.

6. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed.

Let's suppose that time is temporally contingent. Then, at every time in the past, something temporally contingent existed. Here, 'possibly' is an odd 'possibly' that only applies to the actual world, but the point is that the assumption that time is temporally contingent logically entails that, at any past time, there was something temporally contingent - namely, time.

Now, you say: "Supposing that time ceases to exist, for example, N may still exist at every existing time, t1, t2, t3, and so forth, and then simply exist in an undifferentiated time. Thus, N exists at all times. "

That is actually unrelated to my point 4., and thus to Q1. As I explained, you have no justification for asserting the existence of any such N other than time, but you're assuming that time is temporally necessary, because if time is temporally contingent, then at every time in the past, there was at least one temporally contingent entity, namely time itself.

As for 5., it's not impertinent. I'm pointing out again that you have no justification for asserting the existence of any N other than time that you could use to bridge a gap (not from the MTW, anyway).

As for what you call "ontological nihilism", I think that that is a very misleading and negatively loaded word for a view that asserts that it's possible that nothing would exist, even if that possible world may not even be accessible from our own. As I (briefly, since it was not the matter at hand) explained in an earlier post, and for the reasons explained there, it is my view that the empty world is possible (or at least without concrete particulars, etc.; but I think it's a mistake to conflate numbers, etc., with concrete stuff, as I briefly explained earlier), because of the meaning of the words. It's not even an ontological claim at all. Rather, it's a semantic one.

It's true that the Wikipedia article calls such a view 'metaphysical nihilism', but again, I think it gives the wrong impression, given the usual usage of the word 'nihilism' in nearly all contexts, and given that 'ontological nihilism' is used in papers to mean something very different.

Regardless of terminology, the view I proposed is not at all defeated by anything you posted, nor is it defeated in worlds at which time exists, since my view does not assert anything about an empty world being accessible from other worlds, so it cannot be defeated in worlds at which time exists.

In any case, that issue is impertinent to the argument.

33. Doug,

I tried to reply yesterday, but the post didn't get through. Maybe I made a mistake with the captcha, so I'll try again, with a couple of additional details:

My point (one of them, anyway) is that there is no justification to assert the existence of an "N of the MTW", other than time.

As I explained, the MTW does not establish the existence of any temporally necessary entities. Instead, it assumes the existence of a temporally necessary entity (namely, time), and then "concludes" that there is a temporally necessary entity (obviously, since it was assumed already).

The issue of angels and the like does not play a role in that.

Regarding my point 4. (which wasn't meant to be a premise in an argument, but that's a detail), it states:

4. If time is temporally contingent, then premise 6 of the MTW is false. Since the MTW asserts premise 6., it assumes that time is temporally necessary, and so it has a premise that clearly entails its conclusion.

You claim that it's false, arguing that the first part of it is, apparently.
In other words, you're assuming that the following is false:

Q1: If time is temporally contingent, then premise 6 of the MTW is false.

Now, premise 6 of the MTW is the following.

6. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed.

Let's suppose that time is temporally contingent. Then, at every time in the past, something temporally contingent existed. Here, 'possibly' is an odd 'possibly' that only applies to the actual world, but the point is that the assumption that time is temporally contingent logically entails that, at any past time, there was something temporally contingent – namely, time.

Now, you say: "Supposing that time ceases to exist, for example, N may still exist at every existing time, t1, t2, t3, and so forth, and then simply exist in an undifferentiated time. Thus, N exists at all times. "

That is actually unrelated to my point 4., and thus to Q1. As I explained, you have no justification based on the MTW for asserting the existence of any such N other than time, but you're assuming that time is temporally necessary, because if time is temporally contingent, then at every time in the past, there was at least one temporally contingent entity, namely time itself.

As for 5., it's not impertinent. I'm pointing out again that you have no justification for asserting the existence of any N other than time that you could use to even try to bridge a gap (not from the MTW, anyway) from that to God.

34. On the matter of what you call "ontological nihilism", I think that that is a very misleading and negatively loaded word for a view that asserts that it's possible that nothing would exist, even if that possible world may not even be accessible from our own.

As I (briefly, since it was not the matter at hand) explained in an earlier post, and for the reasons explained there, it is my view that the empty world is possible (or at least without concrete particulars, etc.; but I think it's a mistake to conflate numbers, etc., with concrete stuff, as I briefly explained earlier), because of the meaning of the words.
It's not even an ontological claim. Rather, it's a semantic one: while it may be seen as ontological because I'm talking about what exists (or doesn't) in some possible world, what I'm saying is that that's just a hypothetical scenario that is consistent after we consider the referent of certain words; it's not related to what actually exists.

But whether it's called "ontological" or not, my view is what I explained above.

It's true that the Wikipedia article calls such a view 'metaphysical nihilism', but again, I think it gives the wrong impression, given the usual usage of the word 'nihilism' in nearly all contexts, and given that 'ontological nihilism' is used in papers to mean something very different.

Regardless of terminology, the view I proposed is not at all defeated by anything you posted, nor is it defeated in worlds at which time exists, since my view does not assert anything about an empty world being accessible from other worlds, so it cannot be defeated in worlds at which time exists. In any case, that issue is impertinent to the argument.

35. Angra, I have to approve each comment before it becomes published. Otherwise, I get too much spam. Your post yesterday went through, but I hadn't checked the blog since yesterday morning to accept any new comments.

36. I don't really care about semantics, so refer to "ontological nihilism" as whatever you want.

Now, does (6) presuppose that time is temporally necessary? Not at all. You give additional information as to why you believe it does, and I thank you for the clarification.

You say, "Let's suppose that time is temporally contingent. Then, at every time in the past, something temporally contingent existed. . . . namely, time."

This isn't true if we take into account the possibility of an undifferentiated time. It's reasonable to suppose that there was possibly some past undifferentiated time if it is already granted that there is possibly a future undifferentiated time.

Time, therefore, could very well be temporally contingent and this would be consistent with the MTW.

37. Okay, thanks for the clarification (btw, I knew you had to approve every post, but in the case of earlier posts, they got published within a day at most, so I got the impression that there'd been a problem with this particular one).

38. Doug,

You say: "This isn't true if we take into account the possibility of an undifferentiated time. It's reasonable to suppose that there was possibly some past undifferentiated time if it is already granted that there is possibly a future undifferentiated time."

That is not true. Regardless of whether this 'undifferentiated time' (which you've not defined, btw) is possible, my point is that at any past time, time existed.

Hence, if time is temporally contingent, then at any past time, something temporally contingent existed, namely time.

If you have an objection to that, could you please present a non-contradictory scenario at which, at some past time, time does not exist?

39. Doug,

Perhaps, the following will clarify the matter, considering 'undifferentiated time' (whatever you mean by that):

Premise 6 states:

6. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing temporally contingent existed. (Premise)

Now, I claim that premise 6. logically entails that time is temporally necessary. For, let's suppose that time (undifferentiated or not) is temporally contingent.
Then, at every past time, something temporally contingent existed, namely time.
If time is undifferentiated at such past time (whatever that means), then it remains the case that time exists at such past time, even if undifferentiated time.

So, one way or another, at any past time, there is something temporally contingent, namely time, whether undifferentiated or not.

But that contradicts premise 6. So, premise 6 logically entails that time is temporally necessary.

40. Time is the measurement of change. If we rewind all events of time, it's possible to arrive at a past state at which no change occurs. Thus, it's "past," but not a time in the sense your objection entails.

41. By the way, you can feel free to respond any time you'd like, but I likely won't be visiting the blog to approve of any comments until tomorrow. Today is the Fourth of July, after all. :)

42. You say: “Time is the measurement of change. If we rewind all events of time, it's possible to arrive at a past state at which no change occurs. Thus, it's "past," but a time in the sense your objection entails.”

If time is 'the measurement of change' and this allegedly past 'time' is one at which no change occurs, then this so-called 'undifferentiated time' is not actually time, then the term 'undifferentiated time' is a misleading misnomer, but in any event, that would not be a past time (but some obscure thing), and it remains the case that at any past time, time (clearly) exists.

If, on the other hand, this 'undifferentiated time' is time, then my objection remains the same. At any past time, time exists, and so, by asserting premise 6., you're implying that time is temporally necessary.

So, regardless of whether what you call 'undifferentiated time' is time or not, the objection remains the same.

Side note: that 'undifferentiated time' is beginning to look like Craig's so-called 'timeless' state, where God is allegedly changeless...and then changes. That would be impossible, as I argue (for instance) in the following post (angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/post-below-post-is-brief-reply-tothe.html).

43. "Undifferentiated state of affairs" may be a better term. To say that at any past time, time exists, is no different than saying that, "if A, then A." If we're looking at a non-trivial understanding of temporal necessity, where X is an incorruptible entity, then time would not fall under that category if it ceases to beget change.

Interestingly, if you're committed to the view that such a past state of affairs is impossible, then you're basically putting forward one part of Kant's antinomy: that every moment of time must be preceded by another.

44. Leaving aside the coherence of it, this 'undifferentiated state of affairs' would not be a past time.

It's true that to say that at any past time, time exists, is tautological. But that's precisely my point. At every past time, time exists. So, given that premise 6. asserts that possibly, there is a past time at which no temporally necessary contingent entity exists, premise 6. is asserted under the assumption that time is temporally necessary, and so it implies 7.

As I said earlier, if you want to argue for the existence of another temporally necessary entity, you would need a different argument, since the premises of the MTW do not specify, in any way, that the entity under consideration not be time.

As for what I'm committed with, no, I'm not saying that every moment of time must be preceded by another one. For instance, what I'm saying is not incompatible with a first temporal instant. My argument is against an entity that is timeless sans creation but temporal with it, and that changes from the allegedly timeless to the temporal state.

The word 'timeless' is not a word used colloquially (except in 'Shakespeare is timeless' or something like that, but that's a different usage), so it would require a definition, either in terms of other words, or by pointing at timeless objects. But that does not help one ascertain what it would mean for God to be timeless, so that makes the meaningfulness of the claim suspect.

Still, assuming meaningfulness, Craig and those defending similar views say that God is changeless in his timeless state. But that would not be possible, since God changes from the so-called 'changeless' state to the next state, just as an object as a first temporal state would (I explained the details in the post I linked to).

By the way, I'm hardly the only one who sees such problems. Several philosophers, including theists like Richard Swinburne, question the coherence of that as well.

But I digress. I do not need to argue for that here. Assuming that such 'undifferentiated state of affairs' is possible, it would not be a past time, and at every past time, time exists (trivially), so premise 6. is assuming that time is temporally necessary.

As I mentioned, if you wanted to exclude time from the entities to be considered, then you would need a different argument.

If you want to use a different understanding of 'temporal necessity', then I would ask you to provide a different definition, and then we can consider the new argument based on the new concept.

45. Call it a past "state of affairs," then.

The kalam argument is an interesting one, but not relevant to the MTW.

46. If it's a past states of affairs, that seems to also imply time as far as I can tell.

Also, the MTW (premise 2., 4., premise 6) all talk about a past time, and the concept of 'temporal necessity' is also defined in terms of time.

If you have a modified argument in mind, with different premises, definitions, etc., I would have to ask what the argument is before I can assess it.

47. I realize there has been some imprecision in how we're defining our terms, but it was implicit earlier that time was considered to be temporally contingent if it ceases to beget any future change. Maybe "ontologically contingent" would work, or maybe we could talk about things being "incorruptible" versus "corruptible." Time would be a corruptible thing if it ceases to beget change, even if it's temporally necessary in a trivial sense.

48. I'm not sure how the argument would be in that case (i.e., definitions, premises, etc.).
If you could write the modified argument (at least, the premises that are modified), and provide a definition of the term you choose (whether 'incorruptible' or some other term), then I could try to assess the argument.

49. X is incorruptible in w1 if X cannot fail to exist in w1. Y is corruptible in w1 if Y can fail to exist in w1.

I disagree that the term "past" state of affairs necessarily entails or implies a time, since time is change, and it's conceivable for there to have been a changeless state of affairs once we "rewind" all temporal events. If you deny this, then I don't see how you're not committing yourself to Kant's antinomy. For, if this state of affairs is a time, and therefore a change, it must have changed from a previous change.

50. On the definition of 'corruptible', I have a question: is that 'cannot' a claim about causal possibility?

Also, I'm not sure how you would write the MTW using 'corruptible'.

You say: "I disagree that the term "past" state of affairs necessarily entails or implies a time, since time is change, and it's conceivable for there to have been a changeless state of affairs once we "rewind" all temporal events. If you deny this, then I don't see how you're not committing yourself to Kant's antinomy. For, if this state of affairs is a time, and therefore a change, it must have changed from a previous change."

I do not see how to conceive of that. If there is some initial state, that state changes into another state, so I do not see in which sense that first state could be said to be 'changeless', since it would change into some other state, and can't be said to remain changeless as time goes by.

In any case, I'm not committing myself to the claim that for every state, there is a previous one. There might be, for all I know, a first state. I just do not know how that first state would be 'changeless', since it would change into something else. But it would still be first, so there is no such commitment on my part.

That said, modern physics is so weird that I would hold judgment on whether time, space, etc., is corruptible or not.

Generally speaking, my position is as follows:

While we're usually justified in trusting our intuitions, in some cases there are good reasons to think that some of those intuitions fail.

In particular, our pretheoretical intuitions about time and space turn out to be pretty good approximations when it comes to making predictions in daily life, but they fail if we try to apply them to time and space at scales that are far beyond that context, such as the universe as a whole (or even the galaxy, etc.), or the subatomic realm; modern physics is really weird.

Given that, I do not think we're justified in using our intuitions to decide matters such as, say, whether time can or does have a beginning, whether space can have a cause, can be destroyed, etc. (using 'can' in a causal sense, in the actual world, which is what seems to matter in the argument), or whether all events will eventually cease (though I doubt it).

So, I do not take a stance on whether there are incorruptible entities, in particular on the issue on whether time is so.

51. I understand, and thank you for the clarification.

I don't think we have to think of corruptible versus incorruptible as terms that necessarily entail causality. After all, premise (1) of the OP entailed a very weak causal principle at the most.

Now, you say that a changeless state would have to change into a temporal state. Why is this a problem? At t0, there is an undifferentiated state of affairs at which no time/change precedes it. At t1, we have a first moment of time, which is preceded only by t0. It's only called a "precession" because of t1's change (or "coming to be") from a state of changelessness.

By the way, I'm not saying you're intentionally committing yourself to Kant's antinomy. It's just that a first state of affairs that happens to be a change would have to change from something (premise 1). Otherwise, it's not really a change at all.

Physics does provide us with some "weird" information, but let's not blow it out of proportion. As chaotic as some popular scientific journals make the quantum level out to be, the quantum vacuum and its fluctuations have a rich field of energy and subject to various laws of physics. It's not as it chaos reigns supreme on the quantum level. I realize you're not saying that it does, but I wanted to get some clarification about this.

Your last couple of paragraphs is concerned with your mild skepticism of intuition. That's fine. From my perspective, our intuition and observations in conjunction with one another ought to be trusted apart from some defeater. I don't think modern physics undermines any of these things.

Either way, will you now agree with premise (5)?

52. Regarding "corruptible" vs. "incorruptible" I was asking what kind of possibility you meant by "cannot" in the definition. I know it's not strict logical possibility or metaphysical possibility, since 'corruptible' is defined in terms of specific worlds, so I thought maybe causal possibility.

But if it's not, I'm having trouble understanding the concept.
Also, with regard to the MTW, I still do not know how you write the modified argument (i.e., the premises using 'corruptible' and 'incorruptible', instead of 'temporally contingent', etc.).
So, I can't make an assessment for now. If you let me know what the modified argument is, I will try to assess it, but as I mentioned, I have some difficulty with the 'corruptible' concept, since I'm not sure what kind of possibility you're talking about.

On that note, you ask whether I now agree with premise 5.
However, in the original argument, 5. was not a premise, but was said to follow from 4. In the new argument (i.e., using 'corruptible', etc.), I do not know what the premises are, so I would have to ask you what the argument is before I can make any assessments.

53. With respect to an allegedly changeless initial state, you say: "Now, you say that a changeless state would have to change into a temporal state. Why is this a problem? At t0, there is an undifferentiated state of affairs at which no time/change precedes it. At t1, we have a first moment of time, which is preceded only by t0. It's only called a "precession" because of t1's change (or "coming to be") from a state of changelessness. "

The point is that there is nothing changeless about t0. I mean, the word 'changeless' is used, but the initial state changes into the second. It's ontologically indistinguishable from a scenario in which we remove t0, and t1 is the first temporal state, which changes into the second, then the third, etc.
In other words, there is no sense of 'changeless' in which the state at t0 is so.
Similarly, calling the state at t0 'undifferentiated' is a mysterious word, but the state just changes as a first temporal state would.

You say: "By the way, I'm not saying you're intentionally committing yourself to Kant's antinomy. It's just that a first state of affairs that happens to be a change would have to change from something (premise 1). Otherwise, it's not really a change at all."

A state of affairs is not a change. A state of affairs changes into another state of affairs. I take no stance on whether there is an initial state of affairs that changes into something else. I do not see how that would be 'changeless' or 'undifferentiated', unless by that you just mean that there was no previous change, but that would be an unusual usage, and in particular that would mean that a first temporal state (i.e., a t=0) is also 'changeless' or 'undifferentiated', even though it's temporal.

I will leave it at that for the sake of brevity, but I argued these issues in much greater detail in the post I linked to before (i.e., the brief reply to the KCA), and even in greater detail in the longer reply.

I prefer to leave it at that for now, and address other aspects of the argument first.

On the issue of intuitions, you say: "Your last couple of paragraphs is concerned with your mild skepticism of intuition. That's fine. From my perspective, our intuition and observations in conjunction with one another ought to be trusted apart from some defeater. I don't think modern physics undermines any of these things. "
I agree if I read it correctly, and I would say that that's because the observations are actually use of our intuitions in a familiar setting. In other words, by making observations, we're bringing some aspects of the phenomena we want to study down to Earth, so to speak.

The observations in question (the act of actually observing stuff in the lab, or even through a telescope) are events that happen at low speed, on Earth, etc., even if they're the consequence of weird things, so we're still using our intuitions in cases in which they're trustworthy. That's the way to study weird stuff.

54. Think of it this way. We have t0, which is a changeless state. Now suppose that t1 does not occur. It's still conceivable that something exists at t0. Just make sure you're not conflating "changeless" with "immutable."

As I'll reiterate, if you remove t0 and are left with t1, which is a temporal event, then that temporal event must have changed from something. This is a contradiction, so any initial state cannot be temporal.

I misunderstood what you most recently meant by "causal possibility." Right now, I think that's an appropriate term.

As for rewriting the argument, just replace "temporally contingent" with "corruptible," and "temporally necessary" with "incorruptible."

55. Doug,

Using the word 'changeless' in its usual sense, a changeless object O would be an object that does not change as time goes by, or that does not change at all.
If you have an object O at some initial state S0, and then that object changes and is different at some next state S1, and there is no temporal interval within S0, and no other state between S0 and S1, then it's not the case that O is changeless.

The claim would be false. That's what I've argued elsewhere extensively.

Also, I would not call t1 is a temporal event, but a temporal state. I'm using 'event' to mean 'any change', following Craig's terminology in 'The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology'.
But the point is that there is no ontological difference between the two first states; that's why the God proposed by Craig in the KCA is impossible.

That said, I've already argued extensively for that on my blog, so I'll leave it there.

Regarding the argument, I will consider it in the next post.

56. Thanks for the clarification on the modifications.

Following your instruction, and considering that the 'necessarily the case' is 'in the actual world' (as you clarified before) the re-written argument is as follows:

1. Something cannot come from nothing. (Premise)

2. If something presently exists, then there was never a past time at which nothing existed. (Implied by 1)

3. Something presently exists. (Premise)

4. Hence, there was never a past time at which nothing existed. (From 1 - 3)

5. It is necessarily the case in the actual world that some corruptible entity or other has always existed. , or an incorruptible entity exists. (Implied by 4)

6. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing corruptible existed. (Premise)

7. Therefore, an incorruptibly entity exists. (From 5 and 6)

My first objection would be that the argument is invalid, as the following example shows:

S9:

All of the substances in a world W2 not counting time such that they can be destroyed, and eventually they will. So, all those substances are corruptible.

As for time itself, at some point it will end (where there are no other substances), which means that time is corruptible too (by your own example that time would in that case be corruptible).

So, time goes on from a beginning (where there are corruptible entities) to an end, when all corruptible entities cease to exist.

So, there is no incorruptible entity in W2.

However, let's take some time t in W2, at which there are corruptible entities. For every time time u < t there is at least one corruptible entity. Yet, it's not necessary that at W2, some corruptible entity exists, since they all cease to exist, and time is corrupted too.

So, let's consider 4. and 5, substituting 'W2' for the actual world.

4'. Hence, there was never a past time at which nothing existed. (From 1 - 3)

5'. It is necessarily the case in W2 that some corruptible entity or other has always existed. , or an incorruptible entity exists. (Implied by 4).
Then, 5' is not implied by 4', since in W2 4' is true (taking the past from t), 5' is false, and W2 does not appear to be contradictory.

So, the argument is invalid.

I do not claim, of course, that the actual world is like that. The point is merely about the validity of the argument, not about how the world actually is.

If the use of W2 instead of the actual world is a problem for you (though there is no reason for that; my point is about validity), we may as well say the following: It might be the case that the actual world is like W2, and then 5. does not follow from 4.

57. Just to clarify a point: when I say the argument is invalid, I'm assuming merely for the sake of the argument that it's not incoherent to say that there is an 'undifferentiated' state that is somehow either a past state at which time does not exist, or a future state at which time does not exist, so there is a state at which time fails to exist, and time is corruptible.

If that is not coherent, then premise 6. on its own entails that there exists an incorruptible entity, namely time.

One way or another, the argument does not work.

58. Angra, I think you're still conflating changelessness with immutability. If we hypothesize that there is never a t1, then something may still exist at t0. Your objection is pretty similar to Quentin Smith's, so I'm happy to let the literature speak for itself. In any case, if you're convinced that a past changeless state of affairs is impossible, then that only illustrates the truth of (5). After all, there was still never a past time at which nothing existed.

Your example of w2 actually covers some of the issues we talked about earlier. For example, if time is corruptible in w2, then whatever last changes at w2 will exist in a changeless state of affairs. (A future changeless state of affairs is possible, but a past one is not?) Thus, whatever entity this happens to be is incorruptible.

You add, "However, let's take some time t in W2, at which there are corruptible entities. For every time time u < t there is at least one corruptible entity. Yet, it's not necessary that at W2, some corruptible entity exists, since they all cease to exist, and time is corrupted too."

I concede I'm having some difficulty following the coherence here. It's probably my fault, though. If I understand you correctly, you're saying in this case that there will always be some corruptible entity or other? If so, then it has to be necessary, or else we have the problem above - namely, that time's possible non-existence would entail the changeless existence of some entity or other.

By the way, I have no problem with you talking about w2 as opposed to the actual world. I know you're talking about validity.

59. Doug,

A past changeless state would be possible in the sense that something does not change as time goes by, except for the passage of time. But that's not what we're talking about.
What I'm saying is not possible is an allegedly changeless state that is somehow timeless, but then changes into a next state, which is temporal. That would be ontologically indistinguishable from a temporal first state. But in any case, I'm happy to let my reply to Craig's KCA (which deals precisely with this matter, and which I posted here speak for itself, as it is not required to make my point here.

So, getting back to the matter at hand, in the next post I will consider your objections.

60. Back to the points I'm trying to make, you say:

“Your example of w2 actually covers some of the issues we talked about earlier. For example, if time is corruptible in w2, then whatever last changes at w2 will exist in a changeless state of affairs. (A future changeless state of affairs is possible, but a past one is not?) Thus, whatever entity this happens to be is incorruptible.”

However, you misunderstand W2. In that world, the last change involves the destruction of all corruptible entities, and so all entities. Nothing is left.

We can posit an alternative W3 in which some entity is indestructible, but came to exist, so it can fail to exist. Would that be corruptible or incorruptible?

You defined the terms as follows: “X is incorruptible in w1 if X cannot fail to exist in w1. Y is corruptible in w1 if Y can fail to exist in w1.”

Let's suppose that Z does not exist in w1 at t1, but it comes into existence at t2, and after it comes into existence, it can't fail to exist in the future, since there is nothing in t1 with the causal powers to destroy Z. Would Z count as 'corruptible' or 'incorruptible'?

You ask: “I concede I'm having some difficulty following the coherence here. It's probably my fault, though. If I understand you correctly, you're saying in this case that there will always be some corruptible entity or other? “

No, what I'm saying is the following.

Before a time t0, at any previous time, there is always some corruptible entity or another. Then, time goes on, and there are corruptible entities, until finally, all of them cease to exist, and so does time.

The scenario is not contradictory. It would mean that at W2, 4) is true but 5) is not true.

61. I don't think it's possible for something to be possibly created, but not possibly destroyed. But, that isn't a requirement for the argument to work. We can say that Z is created and cannot cease to exist at any future time. That has no effect on the MTW.

What you say about w2 I don't think is possible, either. Assuming the corruptibility of time is possible, there still has to be some existing present in order to talk meaningfully about a past at which time and other corruptible entities existed.

62. You say: "I don't think it's possible for something to be possibly created, but not possibly destroyed."

A couple of things:

1) Are you saying that it is logically impossible that there is some entity E at world W such that E is caused to exist by F, but after E exists, neither F nor any other entity can destroy it?
If that's what you're saying, I would ask for some argument in support of that.
If, on the other hand, the 'possible' in "I don't think it's possible" is not a "possible" of logical possibility, please let me know.

2) My my question was about the meaning of 'corruptible', as you defined the terms. If an entity like the one I described existed, would that qualify as 'corruptible' or 'incorruptible'?
Since you define the terms, it's your choice. But your definition is not clear enough to ascertain which one is the case, which is why I ask.

You say: "What you say about w2 I don't think is possible, either. Assuming the corruptibility of time is possible, there still has to be some existing present in order to talk meaningfully about a past at which time and other corruptible entities existed."

Two points:

1) I will add some more details; please let me know at which statement the scenario becomes logically impossible, in your view, and why you think that that is so:

a) At W2, time is corruptible.
b) At W2, at any time prior to t0, and at t0, there are some corruptible substances, other than time.
c) At W2, there is no incorruptible substance.
d) a)&b)&c).
e) After t1>t0, there is only E1, and time.
f) At t2>t1, E1 ceases to exist, and time does not go on.

2) You say that even assuming the corruptibility of time, there still has to be an existing present. But that seems to imply it is logically impossible that time ceases to exist (that seems to be Craig's position, btw).
But if that is the case, then given that you hold that it's logically possible to create time, then it follows that it's logically possible for something to be possibly created, but not possibly destroyed.
If so, then, my question would be as before: would be such something be corruptible or incorruptible, according to your terminology?

63. Angra, I'm not going to address your first question directly, simply because my view isn't pertinent for the MTW to work. As I said previously, we can assume this is a logical possibility for the sake of argument.

Your second question I'll address with your remaining scenarios. An existing present that happens to be changeless (oddly enough) would become incorruptible, since it cannot cease to be. Notice I'm not saying that this is actually the case, but simply that if your scenario is logically possible, it follows that something corruptible becomes incorruptible.

Since time is a measurement of change, time (change) may cease to exist, but it would leave something incorruptible as a result of the thing's changelessness.

64. Doug,

I was asking about the meaning of the term you introduced, namely 'incorruptible'.
It's your term, so your choice, but I would like to know whether an entity that can be caused to exist and might not exist before some time t, but which cannot be destroyed if it comes into existence, is corruptible or not.

Now, you say: "Since time is a measurement of change, time (change) may cease to exist, but it would leave something incorruptible as a result of the thing's changelessness. "

But that does not tell me what is impossible (if anything) about the scenario, and what is incorruptible. So, my questions are:

Q1) Is the following scenario logically impossible?
Q2) If yes, then at what point does it become so (i.e., which part is the one that makes it impossible), and why?
Q3) If not, then what is the entity that is or becomes incorruptible (if any).

The scenario is the same as above:

a) At W2, time is corruptible.
b) At W2, at any time prior to t0, and at t0, there are some corruptible substances, other than time.
c) At W2, there is no incorruptible substance.
d) a)&b)&c).
e) After t1>t0, there is only E1, and time.
f) At t2>t1, E1 ceases to exist, and time does not go on.

65. Angra, I thought I explained pretty clearly at what point the scenario is logically impossible. It's at (f), since an existing present becomes changeless.

You ask, "Q3) If not, then what is the entity that is or becomes incorruptible (if any)."

We don't need to know the answer to this. If it's necessary for something X in the scenario to become incorruptible, as I argue, then our lack of knowledge with respect to what exactly X happens to be doesn't change the fact that some X exists. It's like saying, "we don't know which country will win the 2014 World Cup, but some country has to."

As for the meaning of the terms, "corruptible" and "incorruptible," you had stated you would ask me for an argument showing that something created must be possibly destroyed, and not just for a definition. Nevertheless, the definition allows for your scenario, so I see no need to define the terms in such a constrictive manner.

66. Doug,

Knowing what you mean by 'corruptible' a little better would simplify matters for me.

As for your claim of impossibility, in my scenario there is no other entity other than E1 and time, and E1 ceases to exist, but time does not go on. The question as to which entity becomes incorruptible was a question to see whether you replied 'E1' or 'time'.
If E1, that's not the case because it ceased to exist.
If time, that contradicts your claim that if changes do not continue, time is corrupted.

As for your claim that f) is logically impossible because allegedly an existing present becomes changeless, positing that E1 ceases to exist entails no contradiction, and since there is no other entity and no further change, there is no contradiction.

But I think it's time for me to start wrapping up my participation in this discussion, since it's taking a bit too long and we do not seem to be making progress.

67. I think I've shown what the contradiction is, but I'll let my comments stand and let the readers (if there are any at this point) decide for themselves.

68. Okay, fair enough.

69. Clearly, the 'necessarily' in step 5 doesn't follow (you cannot derive necessity from actuality, as it stands in step 3), and it seems crucial to the argument.

70. It's a conditional necessity. Given that something exists right now, it follows that there was never a past time at which nothing existed. This means one of two things: either a temporally necessary entity exists (which would explain why there was never a past time at which nothing existed), or some temporally contingent entity or other has always existed. The only other alternative is to say that something temporally contingent or other has always existed and a temporally necessary entity exists.

Can you think of another alternative?