Student Activities 2009-2010

Andrew Brenner

Aquinas on Eternity, Tense, and Temporal Becoming

Activity:
Society of Christian Philosophers – 2010 Eastern Regional Conference

Abstract:
 Thomas Aquinas, along with many other medieval philosophers, believed that God is timeless. Aquinas's treatment of this doctrine seems to imply a view of time that some commentators have noticed is inescapably tenseless, what we would now call a “B-theory” view of time. This is problematic because Aquinas also seems to affirm that tense and temporal becoming are real, implying that what we would now call an “A-theory” of time is correct. In this essay I attempt to adjudicate this apparent conceptual tension in Aquinas's thought. After analyzing some of the relevant passages I conclude that these passages inescapably, though perhaps inadvertently, commit Aquinas to what is fundamentally a B-theoretic notion of time. I move on to criticize some philosophers' attempts to reconcile Aquinas's treatment of divine timelessness with the A-theory. I argue that all these attempts are unsuccessful. I conclude with what I believe are the implications of my interpretation of Aquinas for his broader system of philosophy.