(Part 3) The Cosmological Argument; or, Blogging Through “Out of Time: A Philosophical Study of Timelessness (2022)”

“Out Of Time” is scheduled to be released May 14th, so while we wait I wanted to do one more background post that may be helpful as we try to think of fundamental cause and effect relationships without time. Kant is perhaps helpful here because he makes a distinction between a kind of temporal causality which pertains to the natural world, and a kind of causality of freedom that pertains to human beings. What did Kant mean? Causality is that which “makes possible,” so Kant draws a distinction (which is what philosopher’s do) between temporal causality that makes scientific causal judgments and experiences possible, and timeless causality of freedom that makes moral judgments and experiences possible.

For Kant, the temporal causality we experience in nature is going to be positive, comparative, or superlative in degrees of temporal irreversibility. So, positively, a ball hitting another ball is irreversible in the sense that the thrown ball hitting the other once causes the second ball to move forward – eg, shoot a pool ball onto another pool ball. The impact doesn’t cause the shot/thrown ball to be impacted and move backward to the same degree: there is positive irreversibility here. In a comparatively greater case of irreversibility we can see boiling water which results not in a physical change of place like with the balls, but a change of form from liquid to gas. By the third kind of temporal irreversibility, I mean that while taking away the heat results in the heated water reverting to liquid form, if I cook an egg the irreversibility is complete in the sense that I can’t uncook the egg afterward. These three different experiences of temporal irreversibility make scientific causal judgments and experiences possible. Kant had difficulty figuring out how to express this because from his starting point it’s unclear what time is. His solution is that time is not given in sense, but is the subjective form imposed on experience, since obviously, as Hume showed, experience simply gives this, then this, then this, not the three kinds of “temporal irreversibility.” Kant’s problem is that if time is the form of intuition unrelated to the individual-ness of any particular object, why would we experience irreversibility differently in the case of the bouncing balls and the cooking of the eg? Obviously, beings are contributing “something” to the temporal irreversibility. Aristotle is better than Kant here in the sense that Aristotle says time is everywhere, and in the soul, and without the counter there is no time. For instance, I may experience the stretching out of time of the boring book, but the next person need not experience the temporality of the book in this way. But really, if we look at time in this way we still confuse the issue of and underemphasized temporality as, in Heidegger’s language, the original unity of self-and world that makes being-in-the-world possible. Hence, Heidegger would say we should go even earlier than the technical Aristotle on time and see it more naturally, such as what we see in Aristophanes. Toohey describes the Greeks initially didn’t have a word for boredom (by which I am emphasizing the stretching out of time) that maps onto ours, and so expressed it outwardly. Aristophanes in the Archarnians has one character say of the stretching out of time of boredom that “I grown, I yawn, I stretch, I fart, I don’t know what to do. I write, I pull at my hair, I figure things out as I look to the country, longing for peace. (30-32).” He does not name that he is inwardly bored, but we would say describes the symptoms. Similarly, Euripides’ Medea describes men becoming fed up or bored, had enough of their families, and then acting unfairly (244-46), but again, boredom as an inner emotion is not experienced.

The kind of non-temporal causality Kant looks act is human freedom. By this he means the will unconsciously legislates a categorical rule that humans follow as a function of being human that I morally accompany all of my actions, which makes moral judgments and experiences possible, which is rational in the sense that we can contrast it with certain mentally challenged individuals and pets (etc) who, with the intellect of a 2 year old, are not responsible for their actions in the same way as “average” humans. Schelling extended this by saying Evil is our distinctive human freedom in that only humans can sink below beasts in terms of depravity (could your beagle ever be a Hitler?). So this is a non temporal causality of freedom, meaning not a “freedom-from (eg, freedom from an abusive husband),” but a “freedom for” that the Will unconsciously self-legislates a rule that makes moral judgments and experiences possibly.

So, Kant makes a fundamental distinction between causality and time because not all cause-effect relationships are temporal. Thought another way, Freud basically argued the causal nature of the unconscious was like natural physical causality: eg, going through a war caused an individual’s PTSD. Nietzsche anticipated this error and would say: “We can suppose triplets growing up in the same abusive household, with the result one grows up horribly emotionally traumatized, the second triplet found it uncomfortable growing up but was otherwise unaffected, and a third triplet who was actually “tested in fire by it (that which does not kill me makes me stronger!).”

So, the book “Out of Time” says it will argue against Time but still say there is causality as a fundamental structure of reality. This is going to have to do with the nature of personhood, they say. Once the book is released, I will blog about it, and so how they argue this is anyone’s guess, but it should be fun!