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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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Jeremiah 1: 4-5

4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

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Perhaps orthodox Christianity is somewhat out of alignment with Scripture, due mainly to philosophers under the influence of the Greeks.

It happened before that. Isaiah, writing around 8th C BC.

Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
You will probably say that the terms here are definite descriptions, rather than referring terms. I.e. ‘Prince of Peace’ not a proper name, but a disguised description. In the book I argue that a Russellian description is essentially indefinite and general ‘whatever is uniquely F’, and therefore cannot be semantically equivalent to a definite description, which is essentially definite and singular. Note also the italicised ‘he’ in Isaiah’s prophecy. ‘He’ refers to the child who was going to be born.

Michael,

Thanks for the verse.

>>Perhaps orthodox Christianity is somewhat out of alignment with Scripture, due mainly to philosophers under the influence of the Greeks.<<

I think your point would be better put as follows: "Perhaps orthodox Christianity is somewhat out of alignment with Scripture, due mainly to theologians under the influence of Greek philosophy."

(It is an interesting question whether 'Greek philosophy' is a pleonasm.)

My quick response to my reformulation of your point is that Platonism is essential to Christianity as Joseph Ratzinger argues in Intro to Xianity.

Opponent,

Yes, that is what I'd say.

Give me an example of a definite description that is essentially definite and singular.

'He' does not support your thesis. It refers to whomever satisfies the Russellian description.

>>Give me an example of a definite description that is essentially definite and singular.

Any description prefixed by the article 'the'. A Russellian dd by contrast is an indefinite description ('an F that is uniquely F').

>> It refers to whomever satisfies the Russellian description.

So it refers to that person, and no other.

An idiosyncratic understanding of Russell. But I have the sense that discussing this won't get us anywhere.

>>An idiosyncratic understanding of Russell

I am sure he said that 'the F is G' is to be analysed as an x is F, no more than one x is F, and x is G', or something like that.

What is your understanding of the Theory of Descriptions?

Hello Bill, Could you expand a bit on this passage, please?

Before Socrates came into existence, there was no possibility that he, that very man, come into existence. (In general, there are no de re possibilities involving future, not-yet-existent, individuals.) At best there was the possibility that some man or other come into existence possessing the properties that Socrates subsequently came to possess.
To my untrained ear it sounds wrong. Surely there was such a possibility of that very man's existing? That very man's coming into existence made it actual.

Happy New Year, David. I hope you are well.

Suppose there was a period of empty time during which no concrete individual exists. And then suddenly at time t two indiscernible iron spheres pop into existence. These spheres are alike in every monadic and relational respect. For example, each is two meters from an iron sphere. And yet they are numerically distinct: there are two of them. And nothing else concrete.

Let D be a complete description of the spheres. Prior to t, there is the possibility that an iron sphere come into existence: there is the possibility that D be satisfied. But this possibility leaves open which of the two spheres actualizes it. One or the other or both? The possibility is that a sphere of a certain description come into existence. The possibility is general, not singular. The possibility does not involve either sphere or both.

>>Surely there was such a possibility of that very man's existing? That very man's coming into existence made it actual.<<

You appear not to be distinguishing between the reality of a mere possible and its actuality.

I hold that the merely possible is not nothing; it has ontological status despite not existing!

David,

I suspect the above did not convince you or perhaps even make sense to you.

So we need to back up to more basic questions.

Let me ask you a very simple question. If a possible state of affairs S becomes actual at time t, does it first come to be at t? Of course, when S becomes actual at, it becomes actual at t. But that's not what I am asking. I am asking whether S has being when it is merely possible, i.e., possible but not actual?

A normal light bulb will shatter if dropped from a suitable distance onto a hard floor. Suppose a particular light bulb B never shatters or breaks (it ceases to exist by being melted, say). Is there not the unactualized/unrealized possibility of B's shattering at every time at which B exists? Would you say that there IS this possibility even if never actualized? If not, why not?

There is a possibly connected point in Swinburne The Christian God p.176. He asks whether a divine individual can have thisness or haecceity. But if so, there will always be possible divine individuals which have the same essential properties (those essential to divinity and any further individuating properties), and so no reason for bringing about one rather than another. Hence if divine individuals have thisness, there can be only one of them.

What is a divine individual if it is not God?

>>What is a divine individual if it is not God?

Has to be understood in the context of his claim that 'there is overriding reason for a first divine individual to bring about a second divine individual and with him to bring about a third divine individual, but no reason to go further'.

Yes, Bill, thank you, and a Happy New year to you too!

I haven't read much, if anything, on this. The view I've arrived at is that sentences involving 'possibility' can be re-written into sentences involving just 'possibly', and that our modal notions arise from our encounter with inference. I'm happy to say, There is the possibility that the bulb will shatter---we say things like that all the time---provided it's understood to mean, Possibly, the bulb will shatter. I certainly don't want to commit myself to things called possibilities, unless they can be seen as constructions out of sentences, roughly, Possibly, SThe truth value of sentence S cannot be determined from what we currently know together with deduction from known principles. Can you persuade me otherwise? A 'big topic' I would imagine!

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