John Philoponus, a Christian philosopher, scientist, and theologian in the sixth century, challenged Aristotle's theory of infinitely elapsed time.1 Philoponus argued that infinite time could never have elapsed, so elapsed time needed a finite origin. Philoponus also modified Aristotle's cosmological argument of a Prime Mover / First Cause by saying that the First Cause was originally timeless, which this essay calls a timeless cosmological argument. Since the time of Philoponus, numerous scholars developed timeless cosmological arguments.2 Furthermore, Immanuel Kant in his 1781/1787 Critique of Pure Reason noted that a timeless cause of elapsed time is empirically irrational because both cause and effect must exist within elapsed time.3 For example, How could something exist before elapsed time when the notions of before and after require elapsed time? This brief article responds to Kant's conundrum about original timelessness and the finite origin of elapsed time by clarifying that passage of time originated from not the first cause but the first quasi-cause. This piece also (1) explores various positivist and theistic constructions of the first quasi-cause and (2) conjectures monotheism.
The term first quasi-cause indicates that not a cause within elapsed time but a timeless quasi-cause began elapsed time. Furthermore, the first quasi-cause is the uncaused timeless nature. Also, the observed spacetime continuum might be the universe or a verse within a multiverse, while the universe or multiverse necessarily has a finite elapsed time.
INFINITY AND BEYOND
The conundrum of time compares to a never-ending clock. For example, assuming the observed spacetime continuum began fourteen billion years ago and the continuum never ends with a Big Crunch or Big Rip,4 then the continuum always continues with an ever-increasing finite age.
Similarly, there could not have been infinitely elapsed time. For example, if there was infinitely elapsed time, then infinitely elapsed time would precede every point in continuum history while infinitely elapsed time could never exist for any point in history to exist. Likewise, there was no (1) infinite past chronology of vacuum fluctuations or (2) infinite past cycles in a cyclic universe.
Some scholars stated to me in personal communication that infinitely elapsed time is possible because of different theories of time. For example, various philosophers challenge all empirical observations of cause and effect while proposing that all appearance of such sequences is essentially an illusion in an eternalist/block universe. Such eternalist theories ultimately propose radical simultaneousness of all supposedly past, present and future events while denying all distinction between the past, present, and future.5 This rejection of sequences disputes the impossibility of an apparent infinite elapsed time, but at the expense of rejecting the notion of elapsed time. Also, rejecting the notion of elapsed time incidentally disputes every theory involving cause and effect, which includes all scientific theory. In this case, nobody can possibly disprove that the universe is an eternal block while the appearance of elapsed time is merely an illusion, but such philosophical theories are incompatible with the notion of science.
NATURE OF TIMELESSNESS
As stated in the introduction, this theory proposes that the first quasi-cause is the uncaused timeless nature. Timelessness is changelessness such as absolute inactivity or absolute simultaneousness of all activity in a changeless unit. For example, timelessness has no sequence of phenomena that are empirically observed in waves, particles, and vacuum fluctuations. Likewise, since observed spatial dimensions inevitably have sequences of phenomena, then a timeless nature evidently has no spatial dimensions comparable to observed space. In other words, a timeless nature is a dimensionless nature beyond empirical observation. The uncaused timeless nature is an extraordinary nature in that it has no dimensions and no sequence of phenomena while it is able to generate the beginning of time.
The observed spacetime continuum might have originated from a dimensionless substrate. Another possibility is that the observed spacetime continuum is a verse preceded by dimensionality within a multiverse while the spacetime of the multiverse originated from a dimensionless substrate. In any case, the apparently fine-tuned spacetime continuum that enables DNA-based life had inexplicably originated from no dimensions.6
Positivist options for analyzing dimensionless origins include (1) continuing the exploration of the impossible assumption of infinite elapsed time with an infinite chronology of vacuum fluctuations or infinite cycles in a cyclic universe and (2) insistence that elapsed time began from inanimate timelessness.7
Objective analysis indicates the uncaused nature's constitution and ability is extraordinary in comparison to empirically observed nature. This extraordinariness such as dimensionless nature with the ability to generate the passage of time and life-enabling space justifies the reasonableness of calling the uncaused nature a supernature. The extraordinariness of this supernature also justifies a reasonable conjecture that the uncaused nature is not inanimate supernature but deity with will.
Deity with will has knowledge and power. Some might debate if the uncaused deity is (1) God with omniscience (all knowledge) and omnipotence (all power) or (2) a potentially conquerable deity with finite knowledge and finite power. For example, key characteristics of omniscience include exhaustive self-awareness and knowledge of all possibilities (natural knowledge), while the key characteristic of omnipotence is unlimited power constrained only by consistency. In this case, God with omniscience and omnipotence is able to generate the beginning of time and life-enabling space. However, an uncaused finite deity might have no ability to manage the unlimited knowledge of all possibilities and never generate the beginning of time. Likewise, the problems faced by finite deity justify a reasonable conjecture that God generated the beginning of time and life-enabling space.
Stay tuned for a follow-up article on theodicy—that is, the problem of evil.
1. Wildberg, Christian. 2007. "John Philoponus." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philoponus/.
2. Reichenbach, Bruce. 2008 "Cosmological Argument." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/.
3. Williams, Garrath. 2009. "Kant's Account of Reason." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-reason/.
4. See Big Crunch and Big Rip in Caldwell, Robert R., Marc Kamionkowski and Nevin N. Weinberg. 2003. "Phantom Energy and Cosmic Doomsday." http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0302506.
5. See Markosian, Ned. 2008. "Time." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time/.
6. See "Cosmic Fine-Tuning" in Ratzsch, Del. 2010. "Teleological Arguments for God's Existence." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/.
7. The first edition of this paragraph included a mistaken interpretation of a physics article.
Major Revision 4/26/2012, Minor Revision 8/14/2012
Copyright © 2011, 2012 James Edward Goetz
December 10, 2011