Friday, March 13, 2015

Possibility and God (Beginnings of Some Thoughts)

Vincent Brümmer distinguishes four types of modalities:

1) Conceptual impossibility-impossible by definition.
2) Logical impossibility-if an assertion that something has been done results in a contradiction, regardless of how one defines the terms used in the assertion.
3) Factual impossibility-things are impossible based on the known structure of reality.
4) Normative possibility-a form of possibility that involves rights and duties (i.e. employees and employers each have prescriptive responsibilities toward one another by means of some formalized agreement).

Some things clearly appear to be factually, conceptually or logically impossible like square circles or events that have happened, then unhappened (Nicomachean Ethics 6.2). Nothing is also red and green all over: that too is factually impossible. Nor is Lebron James both taller than 6 feet and not taller than 6 feet at the same time and in the same respect (law of noncontradiction).

God does not do things that by their very nature are impossible; otherwise, we land ourselves in many contradictions.

Is it possible for God to sin or act unjustly? Is it possible for God to be tempted or tempt anyone with evil things? See Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; James 1:13-15

Can God create a universe that has always existed? Or is a universe that has always existed by its very definition uncreatable?

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/19-26.htm

8 comments:

Nathan said...

Hi Edgar,

Great summary!

I take it that a universe that has always existed is conceptually possible, but factually impossible. It would seem to me that to argue otherwise would be to claim that it is possible for the contingent plane of existence to remain unmolested by time - something clearly refuted by contemporary empiricism. Furthermore, an eternally contingent plane quite likely results in a logical contradiction as well, since an infinite regress of contingencies results in no contingency at all (and so no universe).

Yb,

Nathan

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Nathan, great to hear from you. It's been a little while.

Yes, it seems that an eternal universe (like the one posited by Aristotle) is conceptually/logically possible, but not not factually possible--especially from what we know today about the universe coming into existence, even according to scientific accounts (i.e., Big Bang).

We've had physicists who have tried to argue that time is illusory or that it does not exist; or that time is tenseless. IMHO, Robert Spitzer has effectively addressed questions about infinity and provided good reasons why the universe must have began at some point in time. See his work "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy" here: http://www.amazon.com/New-Proofs-Existence-God-Contributions/dp/0802863833

Good point also about an eternally contingent plane. It seems correct to me, much like van Inwagen's set of contingent propositions that needs something outside the set itself to explain the whole set. But that's not to say that I necessarily concur with the inference he draws from from that example.

Yb,

Edgar

Duncan said...

Edgar,

Religion within science - Big Bang Theory Debunked: http://youtu.be/6iE8ODcmd7c

It all comes back to Occam's broom.

Edgar Foster said...

Duncan,

my brief reply is twofold:

1) Reports concerning the Big Bang's death are greatly exaggerated. Physicists still accept this account as a likely possible explanation for how space-time began.

2) I don't necessarily accept the Big Bang to the letter since it's a scientific construct. I just believe that the cosmos had a beginning (Gen 1:1) and that the BB could support the concept of a non-eternal universe.

Nathan said...

Edgar,

It's great to hear from you too. It's been too long. ;)

Although I don't agree with those who posit time as an illusion of consciousness, I don't think that this helps their cause much anyway, even if true. For instance, the entire space-time "block" would still require an explanation because of being a contingent reality (viz. could possibly have been otherwise). Furthermore, if time really does represent a mental fiction, the same cannot be said for material entropy; and since entropy results in change, we can still run arguments for the impossibility of infinite change without invoking time or the arrow of time.

I agree with you about Spitzer's work, and I very much enjoyed his book – clever and methodical arguments from a clever and methodical guy.

Yb,

Nathan

JimSpace said...

Dr. Hugh Ross comments on the Big Bang:

Have Quantum Physicists Disproved the Big Bang?

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for your input, Jim. I agree too with your other post about the importance of context.

Duncan said...

The evidences against a big bang are not at the quantum level & can be observed with the latest telescopes. The red shift anomalies hit directly at the fundamental beginnings of the hypothesis.