Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Non-spatiotemporal things

Imagine someone who said: "It's really mysterious how there could be an entity that isn't subject to moral duties." That would be a silly thing to say. Moral duties are themselves deeply mysterious, and it is very difficult to get a good philosophical account of them. If anything it should be less mysterious to have an entity that isn't subject to morality.

But now imagine someone who says: "It's really mysterious how there could be an entity that isn't spatiotemporal." People do say such things about God or Platonic beings. But why isn't the same answer appropriate? Spatiotemporality is itself deeply mysterious, and it is very difficult to get a good philosophical account of it. If anything it should be less mysterious to have an entity that lacks spatiotemporality.

3 comments:

rashadrehman said...

This is a very thought-provoking intuition Dr.Pruss. I wonder what you think of the following thought.

It seems that the structure of concrete particulars (and physical matter/spatiotenporality generally) are mysterious in the sense you describe, that is, of coming up with an adequate philosophical account of it; however, nonspatiotemporality seems to be mysterious in another sense (I am not alleging equivocation on your part, but there seems to be a distinction). This mystery seems to result from our intuitions resulting from our conceiving faculties which might make 'shadowy' our conception of nonspatiotemporality (one Humean consideration here is that the content of thoughts are strictly from sense-data; though I am very skeptical of this claim (and regard it false), perhaps a humble interpretation of Hume here is that we are affected by sense-data to the extent that our conceivability of nonspatiotemporality is at best vague or difficult (unless propositional content fills the gap here which I think possible). So, maybe 'mysterious' applied to nonspatiotemporality refers to something like 'inability to conceive in an ontological sense?' (Whereas the first case refers to its fundamentally strange nature and coming up with a philosophical account of it).

Not sure what go make of my own thinking--it was just a thought.

Any thoughts?

Rashad.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I have a fairly clear conception of greenness. And a clear conception of negation. Doesn't that give me a fairly clear conception of nongreenness?

By the same token, if I have a fairly clear conception of spatiotemporality, and a clear conception of negation, then don't I automatically have a fairly clear conception of nonspatiotemporality?

And if I don't have a fairly clear conception of spatiotemporality, then both the believer in the spatiotemporal and the believer in the nonspatiotemporal have an equal problem.

rashadrehmanca said...

That is a helpful way of thinking of nonspatiotemporality and spatiotemporality. Thank you!