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1
Eternity / Richard Swinburn's theory of time
« on: December 18, 2016, 06:11:00 pm »
Would it be correct to say that Richard Swinburn and Allan Padgett view time as a separate reality that exists co-eternally with God?

I asked a priest I know what He thought of their views on time and he said "God cannot exist in time without time being a separate coeternal reality, which is contrary to sound theology."

Is that true?

He also said "God's thoughts are not composite, so the question of his experience of a sequence does not arise."

But I have difficulty thinking of God this way, and I keep wondering how Swinburn and Padgett would respond to this.

Does anyone have any idea?

2
Eternity / Does Dr. Craig contradict himself in this article?
« on: February 12, 2015, 07:28:41 pm »
Does Dr. Craig contradict himself here?

Quote
Very often, lay people will say, "Well, why can't God be both? Why can't He be both temporal and atemporal?" Well, the problem with that answer is that unless you can provide a model that makes sense of that claim, it is flatly self-contradictory and therefore cannot be true. It's like saying that something is both black and not black. That is logically impossible, unless you can provide some sort of model that would provide a distinction that would make it possible. For example, something might be black on one side and not black on the other side. Or it might be black at one time but later be non-black at another time. So if you're going to maintain that God is both temporal and atemporal, you need to provide some sort of a model that would make sense of that. But obviously, in this case neither of these two alternatives would do because one part of God can't be temporal and the other part atemporal, because as an immaterial being God doesn't have separable parts. He's not made up of parts. Neither can you say coherently that God is atemporal at one time and temporal at another time because it's flatly self-contradictory to say that He's non-temporal at a certain time. That’s a contradiction in terms. So both of these views of divine eternity cannot be right. We have to decide whether God is timeless or temporal...We've seen that time must have had a beginning. God exists in time. And yet God is beginningless. How do you make sense of that? How can God exist in time, time have a beginning, and yet God be beginningless? It doesn't seem to make sense. Does this force us to say that therefore God is simply atemporal?

Well, I think not
, and I want to propose a model for divine eternity that I think will resolve this problem. Let's suppose that time begins at the moment of creation, and let's call that moment “the Big Bang” for the sake of convenience. Then God would not exist literally before the Big Bang, because to exist before the Big Bang is to be in a temporal relation. So God would not be temporally before the Big Bang. He would in some mysterious way exist beyond the Big Bang, but not before the Big Bang. Now in such a state, He would clearly have to exist in a changeless way, because if there were events, if He were changing, then time would not begin at the Big Bang. It would begin with those first events. So God existing beyond the Big Bang must exist changelessly. But such a changeless, eventless state is, as I say, plausibly taken to be a state of timelessness. Therefore the model I want to propose is that God exists timelessly without creation and temporally subsequent to (or "with") creation.

I think we can get a physical analogy for this from the notion of an initial cosmological singularity. The cosmological singularity in which our universe began is, strictly speaking, not part of space and time, and therefore it is not earlier than the universe; rather, it is the boundary of space and time. The singularity is causally prior to our universe, but it is not chronologically prior to the universe. It exists on the boundary of space-time. Analogously, I want to suggest that we think of eternity, like the singularity, as the boundary of time. God is causally prior, but not chronologically prior, to the universe. His changeless, timeless, eternal state is the boundary of time, at which He exists without the universe, and at the moment of creation God enters into time in virtue of His real relation to the created order and His knowledge of tensed facts, so that God is timeless without creation and temporal subsequent to (or "with") creation.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/god-time-and-eternity#ixzz3RaFslZTx

(Parentheses mine.)

Why isn't this a contradiction?

Doesn't he end up saying what he starts out saying would be a flat out contradiction?

3
And what do you make of this?

Quote
...an understanding of earthly time begins with the
assumption of God’s nature as one in which his eternity includes the possibil-
ity of creation’s temporality. Our time is strictly created time and subordinate
to the true eternity which ‘includes this possibility… and potentiality of time’.7
As a consequence, eternity neither opposes nor negates creation’s temporality:
the possibility of creation’s temporality is contained within the being of God.
This is characteristic of the supremacy of God and the ousia of the Trinity that
permeates Barth’s notion of eternity. From his study of Paul’s letter to the
Romans, Barth had come to comprehend God as infinite, ‘other’ and distinct
from creation and Barth’s theology views all aspects of the created order,
including time and space, as having their source and origin in God...
The incarnation is commonly perceived as God’s taking upon himself a human
form and sharing humanity with his creatures. However, seen from the per-
spective of God’s eternity, the incarnation becomes, alternatively, Christ’s tak-
ing upon himself our temporality: that which is eternal becomes that which is
temporal. In Christ, God takes time to himself ‘permitting created time to
become and be the form of his eternity’.8 That created temporality can be taken
up into God’s eternity implies that time can conform to the shape of eternity
and eternity to the shape of time. The incarnation may thus be viewed as the
fulfilment of creation: God’s nature is that of a self-revealing God and eternity
is, by nature, formed so as to make our temporality a part of itself. God ‘raises
time to a form of his own eternal being’.9 He allows created time to become the
form of his eternity. The idea of God as purely timeless is contradicted by the
sharing of Jesus in our temporality when ‘God himself took time and made it
his own.’
https://www.scienceandchristianbelief.org/serve_pdf_free.php?filename=SCB+21-2+Martin.pdf

4
Does anyone know what Karl Barth meant when he said this?

“While it is beyond our comprehension that eternity should meet us in time, yet it is true because in Jesus Christ eternity has become time.”

Could he have been suggesting something similar to what Dr. Craig has suggested (i.e. about God being both temporal and atemporal)?

5
Choose Your Own Topic / Dr. Craig's view on Divine Foreknowledge?
« on: February 11, 2015, 10:44:56 pm »
I get the impression that Dr. Craig doesn't believe in the "B" (block) theory of time, but he does believe in middle knowledge, and I don't understand this.

Without being able to look down on our "block time" universe from some "eternal now," how could God have absolute foreknowledge?

6
Eternity / Dr. Craig's view on Divine Foreknowledge?
« on: February 11, 2015, 10:42:23 pm »
I get the impression that Dr. Craig doesn't believe in the "B" (block) theory of time, but he does believe in middle knowledge, and I don't understand this.

Without being able to look down on our "block time" universe from some "eternal now," how could God have absolute foreknowledge?

7
I wasn't quite sure where to post this, because the question concerns both God's eternity and His foreknowledge.

What Allen Padgett has written about relative timelessness makes some sense to me, and I'd like to better understand the implications of his theory.

Would it mean that the B theory of time is false, and that C.S. Lewis was wrong when he said God could timelessly see the choices we make without determining them (and that Augustine was wrong when he said God could stand above all of human history and see the whole thing in one glance)?

If God is omnitemporal, how could He have absolute foreknowledge?

8
Omniscience / Relative Timelessness
« on: February 11, 2015, 06:29:59 pm »
I wasn't quite sure where to post this, because the question concerns both God's eternity and His foreknowledge.

What Allen Padgett has written about relative timelessness makes some sense to me, and I'd like to better understand the implications of his theory.

Would it mean that the B theory of time is false, and that C.S. Lewis was wrong when he said God could timelessly see the choices we make without determining them (and that Augustine was wrong when he said God could stand above all of human history and see the whole thing in one glance)?

If God is omnitemporal, how could He have absolute foreknowledge?

9
Eternity / Allan Padgett's Omnitemporal (or "relative timelessness") Theory
« on: February 11, 2015, 06:24:08 pm »
What Allen Padgett has written about relative timelessness makes some sense to me, but if he's right, wouldn't that mean that the B theory of time is false, and that C.S. Lewis was wrong when he said God could timelessly see the choices we make without determining them (and that Augustine was wrong when he said God could stand above all of human history and see the whole thing in one glance)?

If God is omnitemporal, how could He have absolute foreknowledge?

10
Choose Your Own Topic / Do Leibniz and Einstein meet?
« on: November 19, 2014, 04:33:35 pm »
I found this interesting, but is Leibniz's relational theory of time really compatible with Einstein's theory of relativity?

Quote
For the last few weeks I’ve been teaching Leibniz in my Intro to Philosophy courses. In my view, Leibniz has to be one of the most audacious and creative metaphysicians that ever walked the earth. Regardless of whether or not you vehemently disagree with him, it is difficult, I think, not to come away with a deep appreciation for his philosophical creativity and ability to think outside constraints of “everydayness” or lived common sense. As you first begin reading texts like the Discourse on Metaphysics or the Monadology it is difficult to escape the impression that these are the ravings of a lunatic. Yet as you begin to understand the logical considerations that motivate his position (in particular, the principle of identity and the principle of non-contradiction as criteria to which any substance or object must conform) you start to appreciate his line of reasoning and what leads him to such strange conclusions.

Take, for example, §13 of the Discourse on Metaphysics. Leibniz calmly remarks, as if it were obvious, that,

    We have said that the notion of an individual substance includes once and for all everything that can ever happen to it and that, by considering this notion, one can see there everything that can truly be said of it, just as we can see in the nature of a circle all the properties that can be deduced from it.

In short, Leibniz is claiming that every substance, every thing that exists, already includes all of the qualities, events, and properties that will ever occur to it. When my hair turns completely gray, as it is beginning to do now, this is not a new property of my being, but was already contained in my being from all eternity. Even more bizarrely, when I get into a frustrating flame war or blog battle, there is not someone else that is impacting my being in a particular way, there is no causal interaction between myself and other persons and objects. Rather, these events that befall me are already contained in my being for all eternity and arise from me in a movement from the virtual to the actual. As Leibniz puts it in the Monadology, the monads (substances, objects, entities, etc.,) have no windows by which anything could come in or go out (§7), and any change that takes place within a monad is the result of an internal principle (§11), not a cause and effect interaction between substances. For Leibniz, then, substances are a bit like compact disks. As I listen to my favorite CD, I might think something new is taking place as I hear the notes unfold (especially if I’ve never been acquainted with this technology). Moreover, I might think the notes disappear as the song continues to wind its course throughout time. However, this is only a sort of illusion. The notes are already all there inscribed on the CD and remain the same through each performance. This analogy, of course, breaks down when we observe that the CD has to be played on a stereo. That aside, for Leibniz substances are something like CDs in that just as CD’s already contain all their music on them, each substance or entity in the universe already contains all of the events, properties, qualities, etc., within it.

read on!

I am, by no means, a Leibniz scholar, but when I try to reconstruct his argument for this jaw-dropping and outlandish position, it seems to me that ultimately it has to do with logical and mathematical considerations about the principle of identity (A = A) and the principle of non-contradiction (~(A & ~A)) coupled with considerations about the nature of time. The problem is that in order for an entity to count as an entity, according to Leibniz, it must be identical to itself. Indeed, Leibniz presents a new concept of truth wherein truth is conceived as the identity of the subject with its predicates. The problem is, as we readily observe, that substances change in time. I am taller than I was when I was a wee little knee biter at the tender age of seven. My hair goes from being the auburn it is now to gray. When I have a conversation with someone I have undergone a new event that leaves me different than I was before.

Insofar as substances change, they become other than themselves and thus appear to violate the law of non-contradiction. It thus seems that we’re faced with an alternative: Either the principle of identity and the principle of non-contradiction are mistaken, or our common sense understanding of substances is mistaken. While there’s certainly plenty of perceptual evidence that substances change, we should nonetheless side, according to Leibniz, with the principle of identity and the principle of non-contradiction. In the first place, these principles are the ground or foundation of all rationality. However, more speculatively, God would not create a universe in which the principle of non-contradiction and the principle of identity do not hold sway because, by definition or in his essence, God is a perfect being. Now, since it is more perfect to be rational than to be irrational, the argument goes, God would not create a universe or world in which these principles did not hold sway. Consequently, the philosopher’s job is to correct our understanding of substance so that it might conform to these principles.

Leibniz’s solution is as elegant and simple as it is audacious: Substances contain all of the predicates they will ever have past, present, and future at the very moment of their creation. In this way, Leibniz is able to preserve the principle of identity and non-contradiction because when we attribute a predicate of a substance we are not adding anything new to it, but simply listing off that which is already contained in the substance. The result of Leibniz’s line of reasoning– if I’ve reconstructed it accurately –is that time becomes an illusion unique to our partial experience of the world. Where we are inclined to think of objects in time as being like snapshots or frozen postures where the past has disappeared and the future is yet to come, Leibniz thinks of objects as threads where all the predicates are already there on the thread. Were we able to adopt the perspective of the “super-monad” or God in Leibniz’s universe, we would not see a universe filled with buzzing and moving objects or substances, but rather we would see something akin to a four-dimension tapestry composed of threads all beautifully intertwined with one another without any of these threads directly interacting with one another (recall that God is omnitemporal and thus does not experience time as unfolding but as something more akin to a flat geometrical surface). Like a curve on a graph where all the changes and points on the line nonetheless belong to that line– i.e., the line is identical to itself and “exhausted” or completed –each substance is still and completed for Leibniz in this sense. Thus, although we find becoming and change all over the place in Leibniz’s writings– he was one of the inventors of calculus or the mathematics of things undergoing continuous rates of change, after all –metaphysically it would seem that everything in Leibniz’s universe is essentially still. It is only from our perspective that things appear to change or become.

As outlandish as Leibniz’s understanding of substances and time are, they do appear to have some experimental support in Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. It could be said that Einstein effected a radical egalitarianism of space-time perspectives where one space-time perspective is no more true or right than another space-time perspective. Thus, for example, should Laurel be moving in a space ship close to a speed of light, time is far more dilated for him, moving much slower than it does for Hardy who remains back on earth. The key point here is that this dilation and contraction of time (time moves more quickly for Hardy) is not a matter of perception. When Laurel returns to earth he will have aged much less than his good friend Hardy and his watch will show that much less time has elapsed. For Einstein, these contractions and dilations of time are real phenomena (that have been well substantiated experimentally). However, the key point here is that neither Hardy’s perspective or Laurel’s perspective is more correct than the other. We have to adopt an egalitarian position of affirming all these different space-time perspectives.

Now, the real weirdness of Einstein’s relativity arises when we begin to think of simultaneity. For Hardy who remains on earth, all sorts of events elapse such as his aging that don’t elapse at all for Laurel looking back on Hardy from his space ship. As Hardy, from earth, observes Laurel moving near the speed of light in his space ship, all sorts of things elapse that don’t elapse for Hardy himself. If this is the case, how are we to understand the nature of time? Given that Einstein’s theory of relativity requires a radical egalitarianism where space-time perspectives occur, does it turn out that Leibniz (and for that matter Whitehead) were right and that somehow every event that has ever taken place and will ever taken place is frozen as an entity for all time because it continues to exist at that moment for some space-time perspective or another? Where we think of the past as something that elapses or disappears, such that only the “moving present” can truly be said to exist, is it the case that the time I cut my leg with an axe when I was eleven still exists and is still taking place like some frozen pose for all eternity? I don’t know. But here is one place where philosophy and science meet. The scientists give us experimental confirmation of this space-time weirdness. If this is true– and all the measurements and experiments strongly suggest that it is true –what must time be if it is anything at all?

http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/when-einstein-met-leibniz-what-is-time-anyway/

11
Eternity / Re: Question about God's change from Atemporal to temporal
« on: November 19, 2014, 01:57:22 pm »
<FONT size=3>The concepts of time and motion, are meaningless in a metaphysical context. If time and motion began at the Big Bang, and exist only in relation to the universe, it is as meaningful to talk of God being 'frozen', as it is to talk of time before the Big Bang. The problem is we are using physical categories in a metaphysical context. Since metaphysics deals with the world of 'being' and 'essence', while physics deals with the world of 'becoming' or 'existence', it is necessary to use the language relevant to the argument being addressed.</FONT>
<FONT size=3></FONT>
<FONT size=3>Time and Eternity are relevant to the God's creation of the world, from the perspective of individuals existing within that creation. It is meaningful for us to say God created or chose to create the universe at the Big Bang, if we mean to say that God is the cause of the universe, and that is when it began. Aquinas was an Empiricist, which is why his cosmological arguments involve motion, time, and causes. In order to speak of God apart from physical categories, we need to use the language of metaphysics. Anselm was a Rationalist, which is why the Ontological Arguments,and Leibniz's argument from contingency use the categories of necessity and contingency.</FONT>
<FONT size=3></FONT>
<FONT size=3>
</FONT>
<DIV><FONT size=3>So my main question is this. If everything is "frozen" in a state of being without time. wouldn't god also be "frozen"?</FONT></DIV><DIV><FONT size=3>or.</FONT></DIV><DIV><FONT size=3>Doesn't free will/ thought/decisions only work in time? so If god existed outside of time. how did he make the temporal decision to make time or our universe?  </FONT></DIV><P><FONT size=3> 
</FONT>
<FONT size=3></FONT>
<FONT size=3>If you mean by frozen, timeless, then yes. As for God's Will, God does not learn anything new. According to Christian Theology, God knows everything and so there is no procession of ideas in the mind of God. God decided to create the universe from all eternity. From God's eternal perspective, time is a contingent created property of the contingent created universe.</FONT>
<FONT size=3></FONT>
<FONT size=3>But then, why are we in a certain moment of time? Why is it year 2011, and not year 38695? If God always existed, and God always willed for creation to exist, then is not the universe just as eternal as God is? Metaphysically, yes, and physically no. Metaphysically yes because God transcends time, and 'experiences' all of time, and all events. Physically no, because time in the universe presupposes motion, and cause and effect. Eternality is foreign to Physics, as Time and beginning are to Metaphysics. Since the time of the pre-Socratics, philosophers have struggled with the classic problem of 'the-one-and-the-many'. Is the world unchanging and one, or is everything always changing into something else, and many? This problem was solved by Plato and Aristotle by demarcating a world of essence (the one), as the metaphysical world, from the world of existence (the many) as the physical world. Since Aquinas was a student and advocate of Aristotle's philosophy, (Aquinas referred to Aristotle as 'The Philosopher'), and Craig is an advocate of Aquinas, this is relevant to the discussion.</FONT></P><FONT size=3>What is important is that we understand that if we want to talk of God 'before', or more precisely, 'apart' from the Universe, it is meaningless to use the concept of time. Conversely, we can have similar problems if we use the categories of metaphysics when talking of physical properties.</FONT>
<FONT size=3></FONT>
<FONT size=3>I must mention that the view I have espoused here, is not the same as Dr Craigs'.</FONT>

<FONT size=3></FONT>
<FONT size=3>kind regards</FONT>

As I understand it, Dr. Craig posits that God's mental life is both timeless and temporal (timeless sans creation, and temporal with creation), or that there is both a timeless and temporal dimension to God.

Did such an idea ever occur to anyone else (Aristotle, Aquinas, Boethius, Anslem, John Scotus, Leibniz, or anyone) ?

12
Eternity / Could an atemporal God think?
« on: November 19, 2014, 12:29:42 pm »
Thinking seems (to me) to be a temporal process, so if God is timeless (as Augustine, Boethius, and most theistic philosophers have believed), could He think?

13
Is Dr. William Lane Craig the first thinker to suggest that there is both a temporal and an atemporal dimension to God (or that He somehow exists atemporally sans creation, and temporally in creation)?

 

14
I would like some thoughts on this article (which was presented at the Oxford-Copenhagen Summit on Ethics in 1999, and at the International Society for Utilitarian Studies conference in North Carolina in 2000.)

Quote
ABSTRACT:
In this paper I argue that coming into existence can benefit (or harm) a person. My argument incorporates the comparative claim that existence can be better (or worse) for a person than never existing. Since these claims are highly controversial, I consider and reject a number of objections which threaten them. These objections raise various semantic, logical, metaphysical and value-theoretical issues. I then suggest that there is an important sense in which it can harm (or benefit) a person not to come into existence. Again, I consider and reject some objections...I have argued for the Value of Existence View by making the comparative claim that existence can be better (or worse) for a person than non-existence. However, some philosophers suggest that it is incoherent to defend the Value of Existence View in this way. Here are representative observations, made by Derek Parfit and John Broome, respectively:

Causing someone to exist is a special case because the alternative would not have been worse for this person. We may admit that, for this reason, causing someone to exist cannot be better for this person. At least, it cannot ever be true that it is better for a person that she lives than that she should never have lived at all. If it were better for a person that she lives than that she should never have lived at all, then if she had never lived at all, that would have been worse for her than if she had lived. But if she had never lived at all, there would have been no her for it to be worse for, so it could not have been worse for her.

The argument set out by Parfit and Broome seems to have two premises. According to the first, the judgement that it is better (or worse) to exist than never to exist entails that it is worse (or better) never to exist than to exist. According to the second, it cannot be worse (or better) never to exist. Presumably, the first premise is based on a claim about the logic of “betterness” relation; and presumably, the second premise is based on the following metaphysical principle:

The No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle: An individual cannot have any properties if it does not exist. It is because a person who does not exist cannot have any properties that she cannot be worse (or better) off.

The claim that Parfit and Broome are committed to the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle can be disputed, but their argument is best explained by invoking this principle. After all, what reason could there be for denying that it is worse (or better) never to exist, if not because, in general, a person cannot have properties if she does not exist? This interpretation is also suggested by Broome’s remark that “if she had never lived at all, there would have been no her for it to be worse for, so it could not have been worse for her” (my emphasis). Broome’s point would seem to be that, if a person does not exist, her absence makes it impossible for properties to “stick” to her.

Let us call this argument against the view that existence can be better (worse) than non-existence the “Metaphysical Argument.” Besides being pressed into service by Broome and Parfit, it also seems to be endorsed by David Heyd, who claims it make no sense to regret having been born: For if regret means in this case “being better off not born,” who is the subject of this better state?

...Let us now examine more closely the second premise in the Metaphysical Argument – the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle. What exactly is it that this principle rules out regarding the properties of non-existent individuals? Consider what we may call a positive property such as having black hair. This property is instantiated in any object that has black hair. Certainly, the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle rules out that individuals can have positive properties if they do not exist.

Now, according to the Metaphysical Argument, we cannot claim that existence is better (or worse) for a person than non-existence, because this implies that non-existence is worse (or better) for her than existence, and this is ruled out by the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle. Let us now re-assess this argument. Consider the following (allegedly dubious) proposition:

P: Non-existence is worse for Jeremy than existence.

The question is whether the truth of P can be established without ascribing positive properties to Jeremy in a possible world in which he does not exist. In my main argument, I described different theories of well-being on the basis of which the Value of Existence View can be defended. Each of these theories involves distinctive ontological commitments. Invoking the object account of preferences, I argued that existence is better for Jeremy because he prefers existence to non-existence. And it may now be argued that, for the same reason, non-existence is worse for him. Here, the truth of P is established merely by appeal to a preference Jeremy has in a possible world – the actual world – in which he exists. In this world, then, he has the positive property of having a particular preference. More importantly, the truth of P is established without ascribing any positive properties to Jeremy in a possible world in which he does not exist.

The three other theories of well-being on the basis of which I argued for the Value of Existence View involved a two-step procedure. First, it was pointed out that Jeremy’s life includes a surplus of positive value (preference-satisfactions, positive mental states, or items on an objective list), and that his non-existence involves no such values. Both of these claims are, of course, compatible with the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle. It was then pointed out that it seems to be better to have a surplus of positive value than to have no value. Contrariwise, it seems to be worse to have no value than it is to have a surplus of value. This judgement relies only on the nature of positive value and no value. Thus, assuming any of these other theories of well-being, once again, the truth of P is established without presupposing any dubious ontology.
http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=4446

I don't know if Prof. Holtug is a Theist, but for a theist (who believes that one loving, necessary being brought all other derivative beings into existence), this would seem to make more sense than saying (as some do) that existence has no value when compared to non-existence.

I would really like some thoughts here.

Thank you.

15
Choose Your Own Topic / Shooting Horses
« on: August 26, 2013, 02:26:40 am »
For the purpose of this discussion, let's assume that horses totally cease to exist when they die.

If you say that no state of existence can be better (or worse) than non-existence, wouldn't it follow that leaving a horse with a broken leg to suffer for hours or days isn't really cruel, because that state of existence is no worse than total extinction?

Now consider this (from a paper by NILS HOLTUG.)

Quote
    I have argued for the Value of Existence View by making the comparative claim that existence can be better (or worse) for a person than non-existence. However, some philosophers suggest that it is incoherent to defend the Value of Existence View in this way. Here are representative observations, made by Derek Parfit and John Broome, respectively:

    Causing someone to exist is a special case because the alternative would not have been worse for this person. We may admit that, for this reason, causing someone to exist cannot be better for this person...The argument set out by Parfit and Broome seems to have two premises. According to the first, the judgement that it is better (or worse) to exist than never to exist entails that it is worse (or better) never to exist than to exist. According to the second, it cannot be worse (or better) never to exist. Presumably, the first premise is based on a claim about the logic of “betterness” relation; and presumably, the second premise is based on the following metaphysical principle:

    The No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle: An individual cannot have any properties if it does not exist. It is because a person who does not exist cannot have any properties that she cannot be worse (or better) off.

    The claim that Parfit and Broome are committed to the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle can be disputed, but their argument is best explained by invoking this principle. After all, what reason could there be for denying that it is worse (or better) never to exist, if not because, in general, a person cannot have properties if she does not exist? This interpretation is also suggested by Broome’s remark that “if she had never lived at all, there would have been no her for it to be worse for, so it could not have been worse for her” (my emphasis). Broome’s point would seem to be that, if a person does not exist, her absence makes it impossible for properties to “stick” to her.

    Let us call this argument against the view that existence can be better (worse) than non-existence the “Metaphysical Argument.” Besides being pressed into service by Broome and Parfit, it also seems to be endorsed by David Heyd, who claims it make no sense to regret having been born: For if regret means in this case “being better off not born,” who is the subject of this better state? The answer is that there is no such subject, and hence...such a judgement cannot make sense.

    Heyd does not make any explicit claims about the logic of the betterness relation, but he must be assuming that in order for existence to be worse than non-existence, non-existence must be better than existence. If he were not assuming this, the truth of the former claim alone would establish a reason for regret. Also, Heyd seems to invoke the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle when he argues that a person who does not exist cannot be in a state of being better off (for present purposes we can assume that being in such a state is equivalent to having the property of being better off). In this section, I briefly comment on the logic of the betterness relation. In the following section, I shall attempt to show how both premises of the Metaphysical Argument are in fact compatible with my defence of the Value of Existence View.

    What logical property, or properties, of the betterness relation ensure that the proposition that existence is better (or worse) than non-existence implies that non-existence is worse (or better) than existence? Such an entailment might be based on the way “better than” and “worse than” are defined.

    So consider the following definition:

    (1) y is worse than x, if and only if x is better than y.

    How will (1) help Broome, Heyd and Parfit? If we substitute non-existence and existence for x and y we get: (2) Existence is worse than non-existence, if and only if non-existence is better than existence. This may seem to establish the entailment our authors require. However, what is needed is not a two-place but a three-place predicate, since the claim at issue is that existence can be better (or worse) for a person than non-existence. So let us consider the following definition:

    (3) y is worse for S than x, if and only if x is better for S than y
    .
    (3) states that if existence is better (or worse) for a person than non-existence, non-existence is worse (or better) for her. And the claim that non-existence is worse (or better) for her seems to violate the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle. It seems to ascribe to her the property of being worse (or better) off in a possible world in which she does not exist.
    So (3), then, seems to be just what Broome, Heyd and Parfit need.


    5. METAPHYSICS

    Let us now examine more closely the second premise in the Metaphysical Argument – the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle. What exactly is it that this principle rules out regarding the properties of non-existent individuals? Consider what we may call a positive property such as having black hair. This property is instantiated in any object that has black hair. Certainly, the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle rules out that individuals can have positive properties if they do not exist.

    Now, according to the Metaphysical Argument, we cannot claim that existence is better (or worse) for a person than non-existence, because this implies that non-existence is worse (or better) for her than existence, and this is ruled out by the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle. Let us now re-assess this argument. Consider the following (allegedly dubious) proposition:

    P: Non-existence is worse for Jeremy than existence.

    The question is whether the truth of P can be established without ascribing positive properties to Jeremy in a possible world in which he does not exist. In my main argument, I described different theories of well-being on the basis of which the Value of Existence View can be defended. Each of these theories involves distinctive ontological commitments. Invoking the object account of preferences, I argued that existence is better for Jeremy because he prefers existence to non-existence. And it may now be argued that, for the same reason, non-existence is worse for him. Here, the truth of P is established merely by appeal to a preference Jeremy has in a possible world – the actual world – in which he exists. In this world, then, he has the positive property of having a particular preference. More importantly, the truth of P is established without ascribing any positive properties to Jeremy in a possible world in which he does not exist.

    The three other theories of well-being on the basis of which I argued for the Value of Existence View involved a two-step procedure. First, it was pointed out that Jeremy’s life includes a surplus of positive value (preference-satisfactions, positive mental states, or items on an objective list), and that his non-existence involves no such values. Both of these claims are, of course, compatible with the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle. It was then pointed out that it seems to be better to have a surplus of positive value than to have no value. Contrariwise, it seems to be worse to have no value than it is to have a surplus of value. This judgement relies only on the nature of positive value and no value. Thus, assuming any of these other theories of well-being, once again, the truth of P is established without presupposing any dubious ontology. It may be objected that I have not yet shown that P is metaphysically innocent. It may be argued that, if P is true, it must be true in virtue of a particular relation that obtains and serves as a truthmaker for P. More precisely, the (triadic) relation x is worse for S than y must obtain between the state of affairs, Jeremy does not exist, Jeremy, and the state of affairs, Jeremy exists. Now, Jeremy exists and thus the state of affairs, Jeremy exists, obtains. But the state of affairs, Jeremy does not exist, does not obtain. So how can the betterness relation obtain, when one of its relata does not?

    It seems clear that, in fact, a state need not obtain in order to be an object in a betterness relation. Consider, for instance, the following relation: the state of affairs that the allies win the war is better than the state of affairs that the Nazis win the war
    .
    A more plausible requirement, then, is that in order for a relation to obtain, its relata must exist. And while the state of affairs, Jeremy does not exist, does not obtain, it can be sensibly claimed that it exists as an abstract entity. Since all three relata thus exist, we can claim that the triadic relation, Jeremy does not exist is worse for Jeremy than Jeremy exists, obtains.

    Therefore, assuming that this relation is indeed the truthmaker for P, P is true.

    Nevertheless, perhaps Broome, Heyd and Parfit’s point is not that P cannot be true. Perhaps their point is that it cannot be true if Jeremy does not come into existence. Indeed, this (counterfactual) situation seems to be what Broome aims at in the passage quoted above: “if it were better for a person that she lives than that she should never have lived at all, then if she had never lived at all, that would have been worse for her than if she had lived” (my emphasis). However, (3) does not claim that if existence is better for Jeremy than non-existence, then if Jeremy does not exist, non-existence is worse for him than existence. In order for this to follow, we would have to accept something like:
    (4) If x is better (or worse) for S than y, then x is better (or worse) for S than y even if x obtains.
    How does (4) challenge my argument for the Value of Existence View? I have argued that existence is better for Jeremy than non-existence. (3) then implies that non-existence is worse for Jeremy than existence. And given this implication, (4) implies that even if Jeremy had not existed, nonexistence would be worse for him. But the No Properties of the Non-Existent Principle rules out that Jeremy can have any positive properties, including relational ones, if he does not exist. So it would seem that my claim that existence is better for Jeremy than non-existence leads to a contradiction.
    However, nothing forces us to accept (4). In fact, assuming the account of the truthmaking relation suggested above, we may have reason to reject
    (4), at least in cases in which x implies the non-existence of S.

    Consider again P.

    Since Jeremy exists, P is true in virtue of the obtaining of the truthmaking relation. But if, instead, we assume that Jeremy does not exist, P does not preserve this truth value for the simple reason that one of the relata, Jeremy, does not exist. Thus, we have a perfectly natural explana-tion of why (4) does not hold in such cases. The metaphysical basis for P is not preserved.

    So much for the Metaphysical Argument. Before I move on, note that nothing in my defense of the Value of Existence View in this section hinges on the fact that Jeremy exists. Even if Jeremy had never come into existence, it would still be true that, had he been caused to exist, he may have benefited. Had he been caused to exist the relevant relation would obtain (or so we may assume), and so he would have benefited from coming into existence.
http://people.su.se/~folke/holtug.pdf

Does this make any sense?

Does the author succeed in showing that it is possible to say that some states of existence are better (and some worse) than non-existence?

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