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Wednesday, January 25, 2017


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Is this a question specific to human mortality or is it about the language we use to express the coming in and going out of existence? If the latter consider the following story. There was once a famous diamond called the Noh-i-Koor. It shattered to pieces when being re-cut. Would we say:

a. The Noh-i-Koor is not forever.
b. The Noh-i-Koor is shattered.
c. A diamond is not forever only if there is a future time at which it shatters.
d. A diamond cannot shatter twice.
I think we would say,
a*. The Noh-i-Koor was not forever.

The medievals discussed this a lot, and many worm-eaten volumes are dedicated to the question. From my book on Scotus:

haec est vera ‘Caesar est homo mortuus’; sequitur ergo ‘non est homo’, quia quod cum denominatione repugnante praedicatur de aliquo, vere negatur ab eo.

“This is true: ‘Caesar is a dead man’; therefore, ‘He is not a man’ follows, because what is predicated of something with a conflicting determination is truly denied of it.”

‘This is a dead man’ does not imply ‘this is a man’, ergo ‘this is a dead man’ does not imply ‘this is mortal’.

See also this post of yours.

That's a different puzzle, though closely related. I am not arguing from 'A dead man is not a man,' but from 'If a man is mortal, then there is a future time at which he dies.' (From Hugh Mellor, "In Defense of Dispositions.")

To spell it out:

If a man is mortal, then there is a future time at which he dies.
Socrates is a man and he is mortal. Ergo:
There is a future time at which Socrates dies. But:
There is no such future time. Ergo:
Socrates is a man who is not mortal.

Your sol'n is to say that a dead man is not a man.

I suggest we define mortality a bit differently: If x is mortal, then there is some time (past, present, or future) at which he dies.

Is Scotus a presentist? If yes, then perhaps he would not be able to say this since I am quantifying over times whether present or not.

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