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ST. THOMAS ON ANGELIC TIME AND MOTION J. J. MACINTOSH University ofCalgary Calgary, Alberta, Canada A. THOMAS'S STANDARD DOCTRINE: THE NEED FOR ASINGLE TIME. T HERE IS an under-discussed problem about time for St. Thomas. Most discussions of his views on time center around either the question of God's foreknowledge or around the notions of eternity and aeviternity. Even those discussions which deal directly with Thomas's views on time ignore the issue I wish to discuss here.' The problem is this: St. Thomas held both that there is a single time, created by God, and that there are three distinct times: two for the angels, and one for the rest of creation. Moreover, he seems, fairly explicitly, to have been unwilling to adopt either of the obvious ways out of this apparent contradiction. Thomas believed, and often said, that time is unitary, and typically offered an Aristotelian reason for the claim: "the true reason why time is one, is to be found in the oneness of the first movement by which, since it is most simple, all other movements are measured. Therefore time is referred to that movement, not only as a measure is to the thing measured, but also as accident 1 See, for example, Piero Ariotti, "Celestial reductionism of time: on the scholastic conception of time from Albert the great and Thomas Aquinas to the end of the 16th century ," Studia Internationale Filosofia 4 (1972): 91-120, and Antonio Moreno, "Time and Relativity: Some Philosophical Considerations," The Thomist 45 (1981): 62-79. I have referred to this problem earlier in "Time and St. Thomas" (in To Myselffrom Others, ed. David Miller [Warwick: University of Warwick, 1989)), and in "Aquinas, Ockham, and Prior (and the unexpected examination),'' Auckland Philosophy Papers , no. 1 (1990). 547 548 J. J. MACINTOSH is to subject; and thus receives unity from it."2 Moreover, such a doctrine is necessary if what he tells us about the foreknowledge of God, and God's inability to change the past,3 not to mention his views on the knowledge that angels and demons have of what is genuinely future, is to be correct. Briefly, those views commit him to a view of a single time that is linear past, and is nonbranching future as well.4 There is some exegetical question as to whether or not his views on time, contingency, and freedom led him to adopt a truth-gap account of genuinely future tense contingent propositions, but that the singleness of time is required has not been questioned.5 This is not the place to deal with the difficulties Aquinas faced concerning God's foreknowledge, but a brief introductory word is in order to show how central the singleness of time is for his thought in this area. Since all past- and present-tense truths have necessity per accidens (that is, they concern matters which are now irrevocable), the class of contingent truths is a proper subset of genuinely future-tense claims. A proper subset because 2 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 10, a. 6 c (hereafter cited as sn; English translation by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 5 vols., (1920; reprint, Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, 1981). This is the translation I have standardly used, sometimes with slight changes, but I have also made use of the translation by the Blackfriars (61 vols. [London: Blackfriars, in conjunction with Eyre and Spottiswood, 1964-81], hereafter cited as Blackfriars). 3 Thus, for example, "God can make the existence of an angel not future; but He cannot cause him not to be while he is, or not to have been, after he has been" (ST I, q. 10, a. 5, ad 3). 4 By contrast, Ockham, for example, adopted an implicit tense logic with branching future possibilities. As far as I know, no mediaeval thinker allowed branching pasts. For a discussion of that possibility, see John Mackie, Truth, Probability and Paradox: Studies in Philosophical Logic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973). For a helpful general discussion of the issues involved, see R. Thomason, "Combinations of Tense and Modality," in D. Gabbay and D. Guenthner, eds., Handbook of Philosophical Logic, 3 vols. (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1984), 2...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 547-575
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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