Dialogue on creation and possibility

A: But then your whole idea of creation is contradictory.

B: Why?

A: Because you deny it is from anything at all, but if we deny everything then a fortiori we deny real possibility.

B: Right. Real possibility is only in matter, or something like it.

A: But then you’re denying that creation was possible, and yet here it is!

B: That does seem to be a problem.

A: There seems to be a related problem for classical theism: if the universe came to be, it was possible. But this possibility was either in God or in another. If in another, then God did not create ex nihilo; if in God, then God is not a pure actuality.

B: But it seems really odd to say that if we start with the power to do anything, that the universe is not possible.

A: In one sense, sure, but not in another – if you start with everything in perfect fulness, then what else is there to make?

B: So your first objection seems to be that creation involves doing the impossible, the second is that pure act could not create.

A: I think so. You need possibility to be a given to get anything, even possibility. This might be why Avicenna put possibility outside of God.

B: But this just can’t work. The real has to come from some source. There can’t be a fundamental duality of God and possibility.

A: So you say.

B: But why can’t creation be unique in being the only action where the possibility and actuality of a thing are simultaneous?

A: Who knows, maybe this isn’t even unique: a thing only has to be possible when it is, I suppose. Maybe this is the sense of “concreation” of possibility. Still, there seems to be a problem.

B: How so?

A: Because creation is ongoing. If you really think possibility and act are simultaneous in creation, then any future state of the universe is impossible – including the one three seconds from now. But… That wasn’t true.

1 Comment

  1. Tim Ross said,

    October 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    I sometimes try to get around such quandaries by suggesting that things like act and possibility require a temporal framework before they can be defined. But if time was created, there is no temporal framework prior to the creation, and so there is no such thing as pre-creative act or a pre-creative possibility. There is something, but whatever it is is timeless, i.e. in some kind of reality that has no succession.


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