I’ve decided to start a series on the problem of universals as I’m slowly working through Marilyn McCord Adams’s massive two-volume work on Ockham.
I’ll blog my way slowly through each of the myriad alternative medieval positions and maybe if I get ambitious I’ll try to say something comparing and contrasting medieval and contemporary positions.
Right now the plan is:
In the context of an argument about the principle of sufficient reason and contingency arguments for God’s existence, I stumbled across a paper by Quentin Smith called “The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe” (Philosophy of Science, 1988).
In that paper Smith says,
“it belongs analytically to the concept of the cosmological singularity that it is not the effect of prior physical events. The definition of a singularity that is employed in the singularity theorems entails that it is impossible to extend the space-time manifold beyond the singularity. The definition in question is based on the concept of inextendible curves, a concept that has been most completely and precisely explicated by B. G. Schmidt (1971). In a space-time manifold there are timelike geodesics (paths of freely falling particles), spacelike geodesics (paths of tachyons), null geodesics (paths of photons), and timelike curves with bounded acceleration (paths along which it is possible for observers to move). If one of these curves terminates after a finite proper length (or finite affine parameter in the case of null geodesics), and it is impossible to extend the space-time manifold beyond that point (for example, because of infinite curvature), then that point, along with all adjacent terminating points, is a singularity. Accordingly, if there is some point p beyond which it is possible to extend the space-time manifold, beyond which geodesics or timelike curves can be extended, then p by definition is not a singularity.”
Now suppose I introduce a new physical concept schmingularity, which is exactly like the singularity in all of its observable properties except that it is defined to have a cause. You can’t just win the argument against the existence of God by defining the singularity in such a way that there’s no God, because it would still be an empiricial question whether it was the singularity or the schmingularity that had occured, right? And one wonders what such evidence could even be. Ex hypothesi, there wasn’t anything around before the singularity–there wasn’t even such a thing as “before the singularity”. So how could there be empirical evidence that would confirm the singularity theorems?