Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A tale of three horses

Consider three horses: Alexander's Bucephalus, Gandalf's Shadowfax and Dawn. Here, I am using "Dawn" as the name of a horse that has come into existence just now, so that it is now the first moment of existence for Dawn. (Imagine the claims about Dawn all being made at the first moment of its existence.)

Intuitively, there is something Bucephalus and Dawn have in common with each other that they don't have in common with Shadowfax, namely reality.

The eternalist can take this at face value and say: Bucephalus and Dawn both exist, while Shadowfax does not.

But it is difficult for the presentist to say what Bucephalus and Dawn have in common which they don't share with Shadowfax. According to presentism, neither Bucephalus nor Shadowfax exist. Of course Bucephalus did exist, but on the other hand it is false that Dawn did exist: it is Dawn's first moment. So on presentism, Bucephalus and Dawn have neither existence nor past existence in common. And they don't have future existence in common either, since Bucephalus presumably has no future (unless there is a resurrection for brute animals, which we can suppose for the sake of argument there won't be). Nor do they have timeless existence in common, since none of the three is a timeless entity.

Of course, it is true that both Bucephalus and Dawn did-or-do-exist. But that's a disjunctive property, and a similarity in respect of a merely disjunctive property is not a real similarity. Perhaps the presentist can argue that it is a disjunctive property, but not a merely disjunctive one. But barring some sort of account of the similarity this seems ad hoc. We might as well say that Shadowfax and Bucephalus have this in common, that each fictionally-or-actually-exists.

8 comments:

Peter said...

I am not sympathetic to presentism, but what about this as a response: These two horses do not, strictly speaking, have anything in common, but they are, nonetheless, similar. They are similar insofar as past existence and present existence are similar. This similarity is not itself rooted in a deeper commonality (to avoid disjunctive categories) but is itself a fundamental feature of the world. The similarity between past and present (and future) existence is simply basic.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's an option. But note that actual existence and merely possible existence are similar in some way, too (Mt Everest is more like a golden mountain than like a square circle). Is it just a matter of degree?

Peter said...

As I said, I am not a presentist, but I do find basic similarity plausible, and I tend to think it can come in degrees. So, yeah, I would think that on this particular response one should say that present and past existence have a far greater degree of similarity than possible and actual existence do. That doesn't seem too bad to me, but there might be problems down the road for thinking of degrees of fundamental similarity in this way.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Alex:

How do you know animals will not be resurrected when Christ comes to make ALL things new?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Dagmara,

I don't know, but it seems not all that likely to me. Animals have been living and dying for about half a billion years prior to the Fall, so it doesn't seem that their death is an evil all things considered.

I suppose God could resurrect them all, and fill millions of planets with ancient marine invertebrates, etc. Nothing is beyond the power of God. But it seems to me that resurrecting all the animals would make us lose out on some of the progressive story of the evolution. And, of course, God could feed a T-rex chunks of fake meat, but a T-rex that doesn't chase and kill prey just isn't a fully fulfilled T-rex. Moreover, reproduction seems to be a less replaceable part of animal flourishing than of human flourishing, and without death, this would require God to relocate offspring to more and more planets.

God could do all this. But my aesthetic sense does not say that this all particularly worth doing.

It seems to me that finitude is a part of the story of non-person animals. The flourishing of non-person animals is to achieve a kind of eternity through reproduction. It wouldn't surprise me if there were animals in the afterlife. But I doubt that they are resurrected animals.

I say that as someone who has never had a close relationship with a non-person animal. The only pet *I* ever had was a caterpillar. My family owned a Dalmatian puppy for several days, and I remember those as nightmarish days, including once myself running to hide in the bathroom from it, with the nightmare ended when we decided that a dog, or at least that dog, wasn't for us (and thankfully the sellers took it back as there was another family very interested in it). So I don't have the lived insights of someone who has has closer relationships with non-person animals.

God's judgments are no doubt very different from mine on many matters.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

My spiritual director told me that my animals can be a part of my heaven. When I had to put my Thoroughbred down, I prayed the Glorious Mysteries on the Rosary and the knowledge that Christ will come to make ALL things new was a great consolation as well as a deepening of my faith.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Alex:

I am sorry for the bad experience you had with the Dalmatian puppy. If there is one thing about dogs, it is that they for the most part love their humans unconditionally even when other people don't.