PHIL 125: Notes II: Time, God and Evil


I. Importance

A. One might really doubt: me at 6

B. God: At least on one way of conceptualizing God, the Judeo-Christian God logically impossible.  (L.P. doesn't show something does exist, but L. I. shows it doesn't.)

C. Time travel: Logically impossible, or so paradoxical as to be incoherent, inconceivable

II. The basic nature of time. Two theories:

A. All that exists is the present: presentism.  The past is just non-existent, as is the future.

1. common sense

2. time travel

B. All time exists in some sense: 4-Dimensionalism.  The present has no ontologically privileged status.  Past, present, and future are just a matter of perspective.

III. Saint Augustine (354-430)

A. "What was God doing before He created the world?" (The bad answer): Point of the question.  There is no Judeo-Christian God since such a being is defined as both perfect and a creator.  But these two descriptions are incompatible.

1. A perfect being can't be mutable. Why?

    a. "perfect" = absolutely best in every possible way, all great-making properties to nth degree.
    b. Can't get better, can't get worse (would be corruptible now), no "room" for lateral change.

2. A creator must be mutable (doesn't he decide to create?)

3. No Judeo-Christian God.

B. God is outside of time.  All time is present to God.  After all, God made the entire universe.  Time is a function of the physical world, so God must transcend it. We are limited and can only perceive "now". God is unlimited and perceives everything and always.  This solves the problem because we can say that God does everything He does in one, eternal, and immutable action.

C. This is radically weird

1. The present has no special status, it's not more real than past or future.  Things are very different from the way we perceive them to be.

2. Yes, but so is "common sense" time.

a. Only present exists.

b. Yet we measure past and future (How can a nonexistent thing be long or short?).

c. At least we've got a grip on the present...? But what is it?  The present year? Day? Hour? Minute? Second?  No. It's the extensionless point at which the non-existent future turns into the non-existent's nothing.

D. Could time be the movement of bodies?

1. Heavenly bodies?

2. No. Time is that by which we measure the motion of bodies.

3. Time is not to be found in the movement of external things...

E. Time is an extension of the mind.  Past and future exist only as memory and anticipation.  I can measure a "long time ago" because I can hold the idea of an extended past in my present memory.  All that there is for us is the ever-changing present.

F. Contradiction?  Only the present exists for us.  All time exists for God.  (We're limited)

G. Time travel?


The person who wants to disprove the possibility of time travel (a.k.a. "the critic") argues that if we assume that time travel is possible we find that this leads us to impossible conclusions, so we know that time travel is not possible.  The defender of the possibility of time travel argues that admitting the possibility of time travel does not (for one reason or another) entail any impossibility.

Logical versus scientific possibility

I. The Grandfather paradox (Reductio ad absurdum)

A. The paradox: TT > (A and not A)     But Not(A and not A) therefore not TT

1. TT is possible (assumption)

2. You could travel to the past (from 1)

3. You could  kill your grandfather before your father is conceived. (Seems possible)

4. If you kill your grandfather, you never exist. (necessary truth)

5. You exist and you do not exist. (from 4)

6. Therefore TT is not possible (When an assumption leads to an impossible or absurd conclusion, the assumption must be mistaken.)

B. The solution

1.  Premise 3 is false.  You cannot change the past.  If x happens at time t, then x happens at time t.

        (Terminator makes sense, Back to the Future doesn't)

2. You can't change the future, either!

3. Still useful to TT because it gives you more freedom to BRING THINGS ABOUT.  (Bill and Ted).

II. Personal Identity

A. The paradox: If TT is possible then you could be in two places at once...which is just impossible.

B. The solution:

1. Different physical parts of you can be in different places at once.  Perhaps we are four-dimensional beings who exist as a series of temporal parts.

2. Personal versus objective time.

So different temporal parts can be in two places "at once" in "objective" time, though not in personal time.  (Back to the Future, Bill and Ted)

III. The Causal Loop

A. The paradox: If TT is possible then so are causal loops, but causal loops are impossible, therefore no TT.  Why are causal loops impossible?  They violate the principle of sufficient reason:

1. For any contingent object there has to be a sufficient cause/adequate explanation.  (The principle of sufficient reason)

2.  If A caused B and B caused C and C caused A, (like the info on how to build pipe bombs in The Terminator,  then none of them is adequately explained.  (We don't know where they came from.  We can use the analogy of the mirrors again.  Suppose A, B, and C are mirrors.  A gets its light from B, B gets its light from C, and C gets its light from A.  Where did the light come from?  If in a causal loop, A, B, and C are contingent, they can only pass existence along once they've got a loop has the same problem as an infinite need something outside to explain where the things came from.)

B. Possible solutions:

1. Principle of sufficient reason doesn't always hold.

2. Time travel does not necessarily entail that causal loops are possible, i.e. you can imagine traveling in time and not being involved in causal loops.  So if causal loops are impossible, all that shows is that you'll never have one.  Not that you couldn't travel in time.
    a. So in Terminator info came through some natural process or maybe....
    b. God



I. Why the judeo-christian God? (Rather than Zeus or Odin)

A. (Pragmatism) That's who's most important to us in our culture.

B. You can mount a philosophical argument for the existence of God, but not for Zeus or Odin.

II. "Judeo-Christian"

A. Not to ignore Islam

B. Not to imply that Christianity, Islam and Judaism are "really" the same.

III. Attributes

A. Perfect = Unlimited

1.Immutable -- but also an agent that acts in the world, so....

2. Eternal. (Being temporal is severely limiting)

3. One.

B. Omnipotent (Can God make a round square?)

1. Can't do the logically impossible. (Just words.  Not a "thing" there to be done.)
    a. Logic not external to God.  If it were He'd be limited.
    b. Logic not invented by God.  If it were He'd transcend logic and then we could not speak or think about Him.
    c. Therefore, logic is a reflection of God's nature.

2. Can't act contrary to his nature (sin, make a mistake)...the "ability" to do these things is a limitation.

C. Omniscient

1. God knows past, present, and future.

2. Contradicts freedom? No. God knows what you will do because in His eternal "moment" he sees you doing it.

D. All good

1. Limited by moral laws?

2. Inventor of the laws? No.

a. Then morality would be arbitrary.

b. And the term "good" would not have any positive meaning, and so God would not be good in any meaningful sense.

3. He's the standard.  The moral order is a reflection of God.

E. Loving, just, providential

F. Ubiquitous (Incorporeal. Space is a limitation.)

G. The Creator

1. Absolute Creator!  There's God and there's what He makes and that's what there is.

2. When?  Always.

a. First moment of time present in eternity to God.

b. Sustaining everything from moment to moment.

3. Ex nihilo.  (Why can't we say that things exist that were not made by God?  Then he'd be limited.)

H. Necessary Being  (vs. Contingent)

1. Absolutely independent, uncaused

2. His very nature is to exist. "His essence equals His existence."


Nowadays (and going back to before Socrates) the two really live options in terms of world-views seem to be...

 1.) Theism: the universe is the product of a transcendent Creator, and intelligent mind, i.e. God, or...

 2.) Naturalism:  the universe just fell out this way by chance.  There happen to be minute particles of matter and physical laws.  There was this big bang (for which no cause or reason can be given) and here we are.  Or maybe the universe has always was there "before" the big bang, or the big bang is a local phenomenon.   Ockham's Razor would suggest naturalism--unless the physical world can't explain everything that needs explaining.

Three arguments.  Need all three to get the Judeo-Christian God. (These aren't the only ones, but they're standard ones that can be done relatively quickly.)
1.) All start from an observable phenomenon in the physical world.

2.) All are causal arguments, i.e. they move from facts about the observable world to what must be the explanation or cause of those facts, i.e. God.

3.) None of them assumes or argues to a temporal beginning of the world.  "First" does not mean first in time.

A. Cosmological argument. There must be a Necessary Being to serve as the ultimate cause/explanation for the existence of things.

1. There are contingent beings. (e.g. you)

2. Every contingent being requires a cause.

3. If this cause is itself contingent, then it, too requires a cause. (Parent/child and on and on. Oxygen, earth, sun, whole shebang requires material stuff and natural laws ...)

4. The chain of contingent causes cannot go on to infinity.  That wouldn't help to explain how anything exists. (The mirror analogy.)

5. There must be an ultimate cause...a necessary being.  (Something that can generate existence, not just pass it along.)

6. Therefore God exists.

But is this really God?  Well, add the other proofs.

B. Teleological Argument: Design requires a designer.

1. Not contemporary Intelligent Design argument.

a. ID takes a thing within the universe -- e.g. human beings, life, irreducibly complex systems -- and argues that given present science this thing cannot be explained.

b. All these types of argument are susceptible to the charge of arguing to a "God of the gaps".  Filling in a gap in scientific knowledge with God.  Claim is that once we've learned more we'll have a scientific explanation.

2.  Thomas has no problem at all with the theory of evolution -- so long as we're talking about the scientific theory.

a. Species evolve through mutation and survivial of the fittest.  Consistent with theism.

b. If I add, "and the process is not guided by a designing intelligence" is inconsistent with theism, but it's no longer science.

3. The proof --

1.  The universe is ordered. (All things behave in a repetitive, consistent way, which is mathematically describable, to produce the objects in the universe.)

2.  The order is itself a contingent phenomenon.

3. The order requires a cause outside itself. (i.e. outside the physical universe). (Nothing can cause its own existence.)

4. Cause must be intelligent to impose mathematically describable order.

5. God.

n.b. Much closer to God now.  Intelligent Creator.  All-powerful, omniscient, transcends the categories of His creation therefore, eternal and ubiquitous.

C. Argument from Value/Morality

Aquinas version: gradations in value, clearer to see if we put it in terms of an objective moral order.

1. There are objective moral truths.  It's good to help the needy.  It's bad to torture small children for fun.

a. There's a fact of the matter.
b. Universal.
c. Normative

2. There must be a transcendent source.
 (Naturalism won't do the job!)

a. an absolute standard.

b. normative force.  (moral truth has an odd property of impelling to action)

And this all men call God.


A. Deny the first premise. Explain how we come to make moral claims and have moral beliefs in some other way.

1. Contract Theory: It's in my self-interest to behave because then other folks will too.

a. not a  universally applicable objective fact, and so...

b. not normative

2. Relativism:  Other cultures have different beliefs about moral truth > There are no objective moral truths.

a. A benign philosophy?  Absolutism promotes intolerance, tolerance is good, so it's better to be a relativist.  Self-contradition! Boo!

b. Premise may well be false

c. Even if it's true, conclusion is a non sequitur.

B. If people don't see it, there's no further way to  prove it empirically/scientifically either way.  How do we decide?

    1. Ubiquitous and almost indubitable belief should count as evidence.

    2. Pragmatic move.  Can you accept the consequences of relativism?

C. Other objective source?  (Contemporary Platonism)

Crimes and Misdemeanors


What's he like?  Rich, successful, respected, adulterer, embezzlor, dishonest.

What's his world view?  No God.  No ultimate purpose.

Why is he an opthmologist? (Eyes: God's eyes.  Windows of soul)

-Delores Paley


What's he like?  Good, honest, well-liked

What's his world-view?  There's a God.  An ultimate purpose.  No God entails no objective value.

He's going blind.


What's he like?  Cold-blooded killer, honest

What's his world view? No objective morality.  The real world doesn't contain values.

-Cliff (supposedly) Good and honest, poor and unsuccessful

- Haley

- Lester

What's he like?  Rich, successful, well-liked, dishonest, petty tyrant, cruel, uses people, pseudo-intellectual

-Professor Levy

What's he like? (Supposedly) Real intellectual

What's his world view?  No God.  Universe cold and pitiless.  No objective purpose.  Humans must embue universe with value.

-Judah has Delores killed,

What's his initial reaction? ( "I've done a terrible thing!", but if so then there's morality, and if M then G, i.e. a reckoning. Remembering dinner at his parent's house)

What does he eventually decide?

-Prof. Levy goes out the window, Why?  Was his philosophy successful?

-Haley marries Lester

-The discussion between Judah and Cliff at the wedding

The twist end of the murder mystery.  Cliff; but then his worst fears are realized.  Yes it's a chilling story.  Cliff would have him go to the police...take responsibility, give value to his actions...Judah: You've seen too many movies.

-Voiceover at the end


I. What is Stanley praying for at the beginning? A sign that God exists....the courage to speak to Margaret.

II. What does he get?  George.   Why does he believe George is the devil?  Strictly speaking would that prove it?

III. George claims to be a vital part of God's plan.  What does he do?  In order to be happy, people have to be good, and in order to be good people have to have a choice between good and evil.

IV. Stanley wishes that God would prove that He exists.

A. Strictly speaking could He perform some sort of sign to prove that He exists (omnipresent? omnipotent?  omniscient?)

B. Anyway, He doesn't want as not to interfere with your freedom.

V. At the end, does Stanley believe in God?  Why?

VI. Is his prayer answered?  Why is God laughing at the end?

Bruce Almighty

Is Bruce happy at the beginning?  Why not?

Whose fault is it?  (He thinks it's God's fault, when really it's his fault.)

Why does God not answer (or seem not to answer)everybody's prayers?

1.    Bruce already has what he needs to make him happy. ("Reach down into my life....")
2.     God DOES answer and Bruce doesn't see it.

So God does answer, but the one praying thinks He doesn't.

3.    Contradictory prayers (logically contradictory, or at least conflicting in practise, like everybody praying to win the lottery.)
4.    Unforeseen consequences (like the tidal wave caused by the moon).
5.     It is not always good for people to get what they ask for.

With the above, people don't really know what they ought to be asking for since their perspective is too limited or they just make dumb thinking being rich and famous will make them happy.

6.    It's better for people to deal with many/most of their problems themselves. (Be the miracle.)

7.    God can't do everything because free will gets in the way.  (And free will is a really good thing, because you couldn't love without it. Even God can't make you love Him.)

At end, is Bruce right back where he started?  Not really. He's wiser and happier.


The Problem: If God is all good He'd want to get rid of evil, and if He's all powerful He'd be able to.  Yet there's evil.  Doesn't this show there is no God?

Moral versus natural evil.  Moral evil = sin, wickedness, and the suffering that results from it.  Natural "evil" = the pain and suffering which are not the results of moral evil, but are just the inevitable result of the natures of sentient beings (beings that can feel pleasure and pain).

Moral Evil

God is the Creator of everything.  Is God the Cause of Evil? [I'll run Augustine and Irenaeus  (c.130-140 - after 193) together]

I. Some bad answers.

A. God made evil.

B. Evil is an illusion

II. A bad answer, popular in Augustine's day and cropping up from time to time: Manicheanism

1. Two equal and opposite forces, God (basically the Judeo-Christian God) good = light and spirit, evil=darkness and matter

2. Human being is the battleground: evil body and good soul. [So moral evil is a sort of subset of natural evil in that it arises out of the basic nature of the matrial world.]

3. Procreation the worst thing you could do...Suicide not so bad.

4. You've heard this view: George Lucas, Heaven's Gate

(Turning point in Western thought...what if generations of folks had thought that the physical world, including the human body was just, medicine....)

III. Manicheanism has to be rejected: Same as saying there's no God (Can't possibly have an equal and opposite to God.)  If God is omnipotent, everything is made by God.  Matter is not evil, it's good.

IV. Evil is a privation, a failure, a lack, a corruption of the good.  Totally parasitic on good.  [READ]

---But obviously there's moral evil, destruction, corruption....Where does it come from?--

I. Free Will...we're the source of moral evil.

II. Wouldn't it have been better if God had made us so that we would always be morally good?

A. Logically impossible...can't be good without choosing good, and can't choose without options.

B. So why didn't he just make some other kind of creature that would always behave well, even if it's not exactly morally good?  Wouldn't that have been a better world?

C. No.  We're made in the image of God.  We're a really valuable kind of thing.  Worth the price of Auschwitz.

Natural Evil

--Four arguments which, when taken altogether, may do the job--

I. Most "natural" evil is really moral evil.

A. Direct: what looked like natural evil is immediately caused by some bad choice, e.g. there's the drought, but the real problem is the civil war.

B. Indirect: If it hadn't been for moral evil, the harm and suffering caused by the natural events might have been averted -- we might have predicted the Tsunami three months in advance.

C. Won't do the whole job since there's still some evil left over.

II. Need a world with natural laws --

A. Reason: Human beings could not develop as reasoning animals without natural laws.

1. Need spur of effort to survive to evolve rationality

2. A big chunk of knowledge has to do with understanding how things work, but if things don't work a certain way, i.e. there are no consistent natural laws, then there's no knowledge.

B Moral Agency: To be a moral agent have to be able to act in the world.  Requires a universe with hard edges, where physical action can occur, where actions can have consequences, where it is possible to harm or help.

C.Character:  Soul-building.  Would it really be a better world if there were no pain and suffering?  What is the world for?  Building moral muscles, and to do that need a universe with resistence.

D.    Still won't do the job entirely.  For example, what about animal suffering?  The fawn in the fire.  The fox eating rabbit?

III. The "evil" is an inevitable part of the physical universe and the physical universe is worth keeping.

Questions: 1.) Couldn't you just adjust our actual universe a little so that there's no pain and suffering?  2.) If not, why not have an entirely different physical universe?

A. The physical universe and what's in it are really good.  The fire and the fox are intrinsically good things.
Q: But couldn't you have them without the burning and the rabbit eating?  A: NO.

B. For a physical object to exist it must be part of a consistent and unified system of cause and effect.

1. Part of what it means to be x, is to do y.  (Fire burns, foxes eat rabbits.  If they didn't do these things they wouldn't be what they are.  And note, what would happen to the rabbits if they weren't eaten by the foxes.  They'd never have evolved to begin with.)

2. It's good that these things exist which entails having the actual causal powers that they have.

C. Our actual system of cause and effect is a really good thing.

D. The things that produce natural "evil" are the inevitable result of this causal system.

--Therefore, to say that the natural "evil" shouldn't exist is to say that this really good thing, the spatio-temporal universe as we know it, should not exist.---

E. Why not say that there should have been an entirely different universe?

1. No way of knowing that a spatio-temporal universe which is better than ours but does not contain animal suffering is even possible.  and...

2. We human beings are products of this system of cause and effect...

--Therefore, to say there should be no natural evil, is to say that our system of cause and effect should not exist, which is to say that we should not exist.  Absurd to say that in order to spare us and other sentient beings pain we shouldn't exist.--

IV. And in any case, though we may not see how, God can bring good out of evil. (Bedazzled)

Pascal's Wager

Proofs for God don't work, but nonetheless the reasonable course is to believe in God.

I. The three kinds of people
A. Found God: Wise and happy.

B. Seeking God: Wise and unhappy.

C. Not caring: Unhappy and stupid

II. In terms of the evidence, the scales are evenly balanced between the two viable world views.

A.  There's reason to believe in God (e.g. order of the universe)

B. There's reason to believe there's no God (e.g. disorder, lack of evidence)

III. The human condition

A. Compared to the infinite universe we are as nothing, compared to the infinitesimally small constituents of our physical being we are all. We are "A mean between all and nothing,..."(p.82)

B. We are terribly ignorant...we know little of the world around us, and even our own natures are incomprehensible to us. (p.84)

C. And yet we are superior to the universe in that we do think. "...a reed which thinks." (p.84)

IV. All men seek happiness (Here's a piece of certain knowledge that we can cling to and that can start us towards really getting somewhere.)

V. Real happiness only to be found in God.

A. Only God supplies ultimate meaning and purpose to the universe.

B. All other goods can be lost.

---This doesn't mean there is a God.  Maybe we're destined never to be happy.  What should we do to maximize our chances to be happy?---

VI. The Wager

A. Reason leaves you balanced, yet you have to choose one side or the other...theism or atheism

1. Why these two?  They're the viable options..the world views there's some reason to take seriously...unlike e.g. belief in Odin.

2. Why can't you sit the fence and be an agnostic?

a. choosing means committment to a life style.  Pascal takes it that people will buy the proposition that "No God means no objective morality."

Question: The virtuous atheist?

Pascal: 1.) Fuzzy thinking 2.) Committment to an objective moral order is basically committment to God.  (He might combine the two answers and say that the "virtuous atheist" is really a fuzzy thinking theist.)

b. either you commit to God (and objective morality) or you don't.  In practice agnosticism is basically the same as atheism.

B. Pragmatic decision...look at the consequences of accepting each side

1. Choose God

a. You're right, there's a God.  You win eternal happiness.

b.  You're wrong, there's no God.  You still lead a happier life than you would have otherwise.  (The father in Crimes and Misdemeanors.)

c. So if you bet on God you can't lose anything.

2. Choose atheism.

a. You're right, it's all atoms and the void.  You don't win anything except the freedom to be a creep.

b. You're wrong, there's a God.  You lose eternal happiness.

c. So if you bet against God you can't win anything.

VII. But what if I can't just force myself to believe in God?

A. Act like you do and you'll come to see the truth of it.

B. That is, committ yourself to there being objective value, morality and meaning to things.  As you practice these values you will come more and more to see that they are really there in the universe.  And so you will come to see that there must be a God.

The Seventh Seal


I. The three types of people, plus one.

A. Antonius Block

B. Jons

C. Jof

D. Mia (a fourth type?)

II. What does the Knight want?

A. Proof.

B. It's not there. (Pascal.  Nature gives mixed signals.)

C. Why not just say there's no God and quit worrying?

D.  Death is inevitable and without God life is absolutely meaningless. (True happiness only to be found in God.)

III.'s more reasonable to believe.  The wager.

IV.  The Knight...but I can't!

V.  Act as if you do.

A. Why is the knight playing chess with Death?  One meaningful deed.

B.  Does he do it.

C. -God > -meaning,   meaning>God

D. The end?

 Study Guide for Test #2


Two basic views of the nature of time.  Which permits time travel?


Why is the question, "What was God doing before He created the world?" supposed to show that there is no Judeo-Christian God?  How does he answer the question?

Why is the "commonsense" view of time really weird? (Measuring past and future?  Ontological status of the present? )

Could time be the movement of bodies?

What is the time that we measure and experience?  Does this contradict 4-dimensionalism?

--Paradoxes (know the paradox, how the movie illustrates it, and the solutions suggested in class)

The Grandfather paradox (Back to the Future, The Terminator)

Paradox of personal identity (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure)

Causal Loop (The Terminator)


--The Nature of the traditional Judeo-Christian God (Be able to explain attributes)

Perfect=Unlimited, immutable, one

Omnipotent (What can't God do?  Does saying this limit Him? God neither conforms to external laws of logic, nor does He invent the laws of logic. Why don't we want to say either of these things?)


All Good (Obeys moral laws?  Invents them?  No, He is the standard.)



Creator (When?  Why? How? .. ex nihilo.)

Necessary Being


Cosmological Proof  (Best to give as numbered premises with each premise explained.)

Teleological Proof (Does Thomas' proof conflict with the theory of evolution?)

Argument from Morality.  How does Crimes and Misdemeanors illustrate this proof?  Jack's world (atheism) versus Ben's world (theism).


Moral versus natural


Augustine on the ontological status of evil

Where does moral evil come from? The free will defense.  How does Bedazzled  illustrate this?

Natural evil: 4 arguments

1. Most natural really moral
2. Humans need the natural laws. Reason, Moral Agency, Character
3. Imporance of physical universe

Both sorts

4. Good out of evil (Bedazzled)   We just don't really know how everything fits together.

Why is it that God either does not, or seems not to, answer everybody's prayers? (Bruce Almighty)


The three kinds of people

The four premises leading to the wager (Be sure you can explain each one)
1. Can't prove or disprove God
2. Want to be happy
3. Happiness only in God
4. You have to choose

The wager

But what if you can't just force yourself to believe?

How does The Seventh Seal illustrate points in Pascal's argument?  How does the knight place his bet on God?