Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A solution to the problem of cross-time causation for presentism

Here is a controversial thesis that might, nonetheless, turn out to be true:

  1. A is causally prior to B if and only if A ≠ B and it is impossible that B exist and A not exist.

If so, we get an account of causal priority in terms of purely modal notions. Rob Koons has explored such accounts. Of course, this requires strong essentiality of origins, and will also have controversial mereological consequences. But it’s really nice to get causation out of modality.

Here is another nice result. One of the main difficulties for presentism is the problem of cross-time relations, and especially of causation. But (1) with a presentist paraphrase avoids the problem of cross-time relations:

  1. A is causally prior to B if and only if A ≠ B and it is impossible that B have existed, exist or will exist and A neither existed, exists nor will exist.

I guess my main problem with (1) and (2) as accounts of causal priority is that I think they get the order of explanation reversed: the reason it is impossible to have B without A is that A is causally prior to B.


Avraham said...

In Physics there is a result due to QM that while time exists still things do not have values in time until measured. So it is a bit hard to understand time. But it does exist.

Dan K. said...

Wouldn’t (1) imply that all necessary things are causally prior to everything else? Otherwise, you’d have A does not = B, and impossible(B exists and not A exists), but not causal priority of A to B. And that entails that there are no necessary things that fail to cause any contingent things. Maybe that’s okay, though. But it does seem weird to my ear that there couldn’t be a necessary thing that fails to cause just one contingent thing. Maybe God necessarily creates numbers?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, I think there is one necessary being and he causes everything else. So it does fit with that.

Dan K. said...

That’s fair. I didn’t know if theists usually think there are more than one necessary being.