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Shadows of Divine Things

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This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Time as Mind Dependent

Aristotle, at 223a 16-27, seems to quite clearly communicate that without a counter (i.e. a soul) there cannot be anything that can be counted. Moreover, if there cannot be anything that can be counted, there can be no time. Quoted directly Aristotle declares, “for if there cannot be some one to count there cannot be anything that can be counted either, so that evidently there cannot be number; for number is either what has been, or what can be, counted. But if nothing but soul, or in soul reason, is qualified to count, it is impossible for there to be time unless there is soul.”[1] Thus, time is dependent upon a counter (or soul).

Aquinas comments on these passages by declaring,

If it is impossible for there to be something which can be numbered, then it is impossible for there to be something numerable, that is, able to be numbered. But if the numerable is not, number is not. For number exists only in that which is actually numbered or in that which is potentially numerable. Therefore, it follows that, if something which is able to number does not exist, then number does not exist. But nothing can number except the soul, and among the parts of the soul nothing except the intellect. For to number is to relate numbered things to one first measure, and this is done by reason [ratio]. Therefore, if no intellective soul exists, there is no number. But time is a number, as was said. Therefore, if no intellective soul exists, there is no time. [2]

This account of time and number seem to clearly indicate that Aristotle is an idealist in reference to his views on time. However, before a definite conclusion can be drawn a closer look at these passages is needed.

Regarding Aristotle’s definition of time as number, time is not only a measure but it has some type of relation to the soul. This is so because Aristotle declares that only a mind can count. Conen points out, “Since time is number, and only soul can number, it would follow that the relation of time to the soul is one of dependence.”[3] On the other hand, Callahan declares, “Asking what time would be if there could be no soul to number motion is somewhat irrelevant to the present analysis, and Aristotle passes over it lightly.”[4] Perhaps Callahan is correct. Perhaps, this issue is irrelevant. However, it seems quite erroneous on the part of Callahan to dismiss this issue on the basis that “Aristotle passes it over lightly.”

It would seem more advantageous to Aristotle’s whole treatise on time, if this particular issue were indeed irrelevant, to ignore it altogether. The fact that Aristotle discusses it warrants a closer examination. Moreover, Conen seems to think is very important because “For Aristotle introduces the soul only in so far as it is necessary to a fuller and more exact understanding of time as it exists in nature itself.”[5] Therefore, to what extent does time depend upon the soul? Can there be time without a soul? Is, in fact, Aristotle an idealist with regard to time? All these questions must be examined in turn in order to draw a viable conclusion to the final question.


[1] 223a 23-26.
[2] Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, 306.
[3] Conen, 451.
[4] Callahan, 76.
[5] Conen, 452.

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