Thursday, July 5, 2018

Existence and arbitrary parameters

Suppose vague existence and vague identity are impossible. Consider cases where a seemingly insignificant difference makes a difference as to existence. For instance, imagine that a tomato plant is slowly crushed. At some point, what is there is no longer identical with the original plant. (One can run the story diachronically or modify it and run at across worlds.)

There will thus be facts that determine when exactly the tomato plant ceased to exist. Moreover, these facts seem to call out for an explanation: Why should this precise degree of crushing make the plant not exist any more?

This degree of crushing seems to be an arbitrary parameter, either a contingent or a necessary one. One reaction to such an arbitrary parameter is to reject the assumption that there is no vagueness in existence or identity. But a theist has another option: The parameter is there, but it is wisely chosen by God.

Note 1: It may seem that an Aristotelian has an answer: The plant ceases to exist when its form departs. But that only pushes the question back to: Why does this precise degree of crushing make the form depart?

Note 2: There could be an indeterministic law of nature that says that given a degree of crushing there is a chance of the tomato plant ceasing to exist. But such a law would have seemingly arbitrary parameters, too.


SMatthewStolte said...

If it is wisely chosen rather than arbitrarily chosen by God, you aren’t done with your explanation. For example, you might have to say that God chose this parameter rather than another nearby parameter, because it was better to do so. And there would have to be an explanation for why this parameter is better than that.

Alexander R Pruss said...

On that question, see: