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In the writings of the early medieval philosophers metaphysical speculations were inextricably intermingled with theological ideas. This fusion of the conclusions of reason with the facts of revelation was characteristic for the patristic philosophers, in particular, who were thought to have recognized similarities between Plato and the Judeo-Christian tradition as, for example, that Plato, in contrast to Aristotle, taught that the world was created by God. Some of these philosophers even claimed that Plato had drawn from the writings of the Old Testament. It is not surprising, therefore, that when dealing with the problem of time they devoted much attention to the concept of eternity, which according to Plato’s Timaeus served the Demiurge as the prototype for creating time as its moving image.1 Some logical difficulties had to be resolved, however. For if God or the Demiurge created the world simultaneously with time, as Plato had taught— or if, as the Bible says, “in the beginning God created heaven and earth”2— C H A P T E R T H R E E Medieval Conceptions of Simultaneity 1 See chapter 2, notes 49, 54, and 55. 2 Genesis 1, 1. 48 Concepts of Simultaneity there should have been before creation a period of inaction on the part of the Creator, whose eternity was, of course, never doubted. St. Augustine (Aurelius Augustinus) discussed this problem in extenso in Confessions, which he wrote at the end of the fourth century. He answered the question, “What was God doing before He made heaven and earth?,” by saying: “It is not in time that you [God] precede times; all your ‘years’ subsist in simultaneity because they do not change; your ‘years’ are ‘one day’ and your ‘today’ is ‘eternity.’ ”3 Meditating about the term “before” St. Augustine of course rejected the “merrily” given answer that “He was preparing hell for pryers into mysteries ” as “eluding the pressure of the question.” Instead he argued that “if before heaven and earth there was no time, why is it demanded, what Thou then didst? For there was no ‘then,’ when there was no time.” But if there was no time before creation, how could he claim that all of God’s “years subsist in simultaneity?” In other words, did he use the term “simul” in this context in a temporal sense, in which case he would have contradicted his own statement that prior to creation there was no time? If we study his writings we find that he frequently applied the term “simul” in a definitely temporal sense. The most explicit example can be found in De civitate Dei, where he wrote: “Who does not see that time would not have existed had not some creature been made, which by some motion would bring about change, and that since the various parts of this motion and change cannot exist simultaneously (simul), when one passes away and another succeeds it in shorter or longer intervals of duration, time would be the result?”4 On the other hand, if we recall that St. Augustine frequently5 quoted the Latin version “creavit omnia simul” of Ecclesiasticus 18, 1, which in the Septuagint reads “ ´ ` ´  õ̃ ,” where the term “ õ̃ ” (common) has the original not necessarily temporal meaning of the Sanskrit “sem” (together), we cannot exclude the possibility that St. Augustine used simul in “anni tui omnes simul stant”6 in the nontemporal meaning of simply “together.” This nontemporal use of simul was, of course, an exception. In general, Augustine used this term in its temporal sense as synonymous with “at the 3 “ . . . anni tui omnes simul stant.” St. Augustine’s Confessions (London: Heinemann, 1979), vol. 2, p. 236. 4 St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XI, 6. See also ibid., XII, 16 and his De Genesi ad Litteram Liber Imperfectus VI, 11, 19, VII, 28, 42 and De Vera Religione 7, 13. 5 See, for example, De Civitate Dei, VI, 6. 6 His choice of “anni” (years) was probably influenced by Psalm 90, 4 where it is said: “For a thousand years in they sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” Medieval Conceptions of Simultaneity 49 same time.” An interesting example of this temporal usage can be found in book 7, chapter 6, of Confessions, in which he explains the reason for his disbelief in astrological divinations. He tells us the story of a rich woman and a poor maid servant who became pregnant at the same time. To cast the horoscopes of their expected babies...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780801889530
Related ISBN
9780801884221
MARC Record
OCLC
213306047
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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