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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

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.

Friday, June 22, 2007

To What Extent Does Time Depend Upon the Soul?

The relationship between time and the soul (or mind/intellection) seems to be one of complete dependence. In other words, Aristotle clearly indicates that if there is no soul, there is no time. Hussey translates this passage by declaring, “‘If there were no soul’ must be understood as ‘if the universe were such that it was impossible for there ever to be any soul in it’ - as appears from the next sentence: ‘if it is impossible that there should be something to do the counting.’”[1]

If this is the case, then the relationship between time and the soul is not one of complete dependence, since other works of Aristotle[2] seem to indicate that the ‘substrates’ exist without being perceived. Hussey details this idea by declaring, “All but the Topics passage refer to the case of sense perception. The primary objects of sense-perception, the ‘sensibles’ (aisthêta) such as colours and tastes, have no existence independently of perception.” Hussey continues this line of thought by declaring, “whereas the ‘substrate’, i.e. the material bodies which are called ‘perceptible by sense’ derivatively, do so exist. So there is a sense in which ‘something sense-perceptible’ could exist even if there were no perceivers (Categories 7) and a sense in which this is false (Metaphysics IV. 5, de Anima III.2).”[3] Hussey introduces a very good point here, for Aristotle declares that the ‘now’ of time is the same in the substratum since motion goes with magnitude, and time goes with motion. (219b 13-16). However, how this squares with Aristotle’s definitive remark that time requires a soul still seems to remain unsettled. Thus, the second question, ‘can there be time without a soul?’, may provide further help with the question, ‘to what extent does time depend upon the soul?’

Can There be Time Without a Soul?

In his book Aristotle: A Complete Exposition of His Work and Thought, W. D. Ross delineates, “Aristotle raises, without very definitely answering, an important question when he asks whether there would be time if there were not soul. It might be urged, he points out, that if there were no one to count there would be nothing that could be counted, and therefore no number.” Ross goes on to conclude, “All that could then exist would be not time but its substratum movement; i.e. there would still be movement, but it would have no measurable aspect.”[4]

While Ross’ conclusion, prima facie, seems to indicate that there could possibly be time without a perceiver, it also seems to be wrought with other difficulties and merely raises more questions. For instance, what is movement that has no measurable aspect? Moreover, it seems that the measurable aspect of movement would be the very thing that might be needed in order to indicate that there was movement occurring. In other words, it seems that movement could not be movement without measurability. However, measurability seems to rely upon some sentient mind to measure. And thus we are back to Aristotle’s conclusion that time is mind dependent.

In his commentary to Aristotle’s Physics Ross repudiates Aristotle’s statement that time is dependent upon the soul. Conen, responding to Ross’ repudiation declares,

What reason does Ross advance for his repudiation of Aristotle’s statement that time depends upon the soul? Aristotle is wrong, says Ross, because motion exists independently of the soul and it is “obvious” that motion cannot exist if time does not exist. Just what makes this fact obvious Ross does not say. Is it Aristotle’s definition of motion? But there does not seem to be anything in “the act of a being in potency in so far as it is in potency” that implies time as a prerequisite, or which suggests an “obvious” deduction to this fact. Perhaps, then, something in experience makes it obvious. But Aristotle’s whole analysis of experience has gone to show that, far from being a prerequisite of motion, time is rather a consequent of motion, and this, only with respect to the numbering soul. Time is not, as Ross would have it, a sine qua non of motion, somewhat as space would be bodies. It is rather motion that is a sine qua non of time, as is also a numbering soul. [5]

The observations made by Conen can not be ignored. It seems a rather difficult task to support a declaration that time could exist without a soul. And once again we are back to Aristotle’s conclusion that time is mind dependent.

In keeping with the current question, Hussey brings to his reader’s attention this particular idea. Hussey declares, “There are two kinds of ‘coutables’ viz. The concrete totalities and the abstract numbers. If there were no soul, the abstract could not exist, since they are created by the mental operation of abstraction. The concrete totalities would still exist but would not be countable.”[6] Essentially Hussey seems to be saying the same thing Ross said at footnote 47. Moreover, Hussey’s comments seem to strengthen the idea that Aristotle has, in fact, an idealist view of time. Since, if the concrete totalities were not countable, and the concrete totalities are the things which a mind perceives (and thus counts), and if what Aristotle declares is true, that if there is not someone to count there cannot be anything that can be counted, then to say concrete totalities would exist but not be counted is a contradiction. Besides, in Aristotle’s view of time, we apprehend time only when we have marked movement (before and after), and this is done in the two ways which Hussey put forth above, namely the abstract and the concrete. The abstract is counted when motion is not perceived because there is still motion in the mind via thought. And of course, the concrete is counted because the movement is actually perceived and marked (before and after), as Aristotle declared.

Lastly, in answering this question, Aquinas concludes that “time does not have a perfect existence outside of the soul.”[7] He comes to this conclusion based on his response to the notion that time does not exist because it is composed of non-existent parts (i.e. time as an attribute).
Aquinas details his conclusions by declaring,

He [Aristotle] says that, if there is no soul, one must say either that time does not exist, or, more correctly, that without soul time is some kind of a being—if, for example, it happens that there is motion but no soul. For if there is motion, it is necessary that there is also time. For before and after are in motion, and the before and after of motion, insofar as they are numerable, are time. To understand this answer it must be realized that, if there are numbered things, then there must be number. Hence, both numbered things and their number depend on one who numbers. Now the existence of numbered things does not depend on an intellect which is the cause of the things, as is the divine intellect. However, their existence does not depend on the intellect of the soul. Only numeration itself, which is an act of the soul, depends on the intellect of the soul. Therefore, there can be sensible things when no sense power exists, likewise there can be number and numerable things when no one who numbers exists.

But perhaps the conditional proposition which he gave first is true; that is, if it is impossible for their to be someone who numbers, then it is impossible for their to be anything numerable. This is similar to the following true proposition: if it is impossible for there to be someone who senses, then it is impossible for their to be something sensible. For if there is something sensible it can be sense. And if it can sensed then there can something which senses.
. . . In the same it follows that, if there is something numerable, then there can be something which numbers. Hence, if it is impossible for there to be something which numbers, then it is impossible for there to be something numerable. But it does not follow that, if there is no one who numbers, then there is nothing numerable, as the Philosopher’s objection proceeds. . . . Nor is anything concerning motion actually found in things except a certain indivisible part of motion, which is a division of motion. But the totality of motion is established by a consideration of the soul which compares a prior disposition of the mobile objects to a later one. Therefore, time also does not have existence outside the soul in respect to its own indivisible part. For the totality of time is established by the ordering of the soul which numbers the before and after in motion, as was said above. Therefore the Philosopher significantly says that, if soul does not exist, then time is “some kind” of being, that is, an imperfect being. In the same way, if there happens to be motion but no soul, motion is also said to be imperfect
. [8]

Aquinas seems to conclude above that without the soul time is some type of imperfect being. Which is also the case for motion, in that if there is no soul to perceive the motion the motion is imperfect. However, it seems that Aquinas would have to concede that this could never be the case granting the divine intellect[9], and thus there would always be at least one perceiver who sees the motion and does the counting. Once again we are back to Aristotle’s original claim that time is mind dependent.

[1] Hussey, 172.
[2] Categories 7, 7b 33-8a 6; Topics V.9, 138 b 30-37; Metaphysics IV.5, 1010b 30 - 1011a 2; de Anima III.2, 426a 15-26. These references were taken from Hussey’s commentary to Aristotle’s Physics, 173.
[3] Hussey, 173.
[4] W. D. Ross, Aristotle: A complete Exposition of His Works and Thought, (New York: Meridian Books, 1959), 92.
[5] Conen, 457.
[6] Hussey, 173.
[7] Aquinas, 307.
[8] Aquinas, 306-07.
[9] This idea, of course, is a discussion that could entail a paper in and of itself. See Aquinas commentary to the Physics as well as Commentary on Sentences.

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