AQUINAS, ANGELS, AEVITERNITY, AND A-SERIES TIME

Saint Thomas Aquinas held that angels were created in and act in a time called aeviternity. Aeviternity, he describes, is a time between eternity and measurable time. J.M.E. McTaggart describes A-series time in a very similar way to Aquinas’ aeviternity. I argue that aeviternity and A-series time are equivalent. So, I conclude, angels are in A-series time.

What is Aeviternity?

Medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas, held that God has no potentiality and exists in eternity. Humankind is pure potentiality and exists in time. Angels are somewhere in the middle. They are immutable in their nature but mutable in their choice. Angels, for Aquinas, exist in aeviternity. So what is aeviternity? Aquinas says that eternity has no beginning or end. On the opposite end of the spectrum, measurable time has both a beginning and an end. So, aeviternity is a means between eternity and time. Aeviternity has a beginning and no end. Aeviternity is a simultaneous whole; yet it is not eternity, because “before” and “after” are compatible with it (Summa Theologica, P1, Q10, A5).

Stripped of the theological language the language that Aquinas uses to describe time—eternity, aeviternity, and time—is very similar to the language that J.M.E. McTaggart uses to describe time. In the next section let us look at how McTaggart describes A-series time.

What is A-series time?

Modern philosopher, J.M.E. McTaggart, contrasted A-series time with B-series time. In the literature, A-series has been called the “time above time”, “pure duration” and “real time.” A-series time is how most people describe time. We think of time as flowing. Most people hold that the past is not currently existent and the future is not currently existent. That is, we tend to remember the past fairly well but we do not remember the future. “Now” is all that exists. So, “now” is not mind-dependent. We even speak in terms of past, present, and future. In speaking about time, we use tensed, propositional language such as, “I was mowing my lawn in the past, I am mowing my lawn presently, and I will be mowing my lawn in the future.” In A-series time, there is a before and after. We are always on the frontal edge of the crest of time. We are hanging ten, riding the surfboard of ‘now’. That is, we are never existing in the future nor the past. Unlike cosmic measurable time (our time), A-series time is immeasurable. It is metaphysical time.

Logic of the Argument

Aquinas held that angels exist in aeviternity. J.M.E. McTaggart and others proffered similar descriptions when defining A-series time. So, conclude that aeviternity and A-series time are materially equivalent. So, angels are in A-series time.

The logic of the argument is as follows:

Gx= x is an Angel
Ex= x exists in Aeviternity
Ax= x exists in A-series time
Premises: (x)Gx->(x)E!Ex,(x)Ex<->(x)E!Ax
Conclusion: (x)Gx->(x)E!Ax
Proof:
1. (x)Gx->(x)E!Ex
2. (x)E!Ex<->(x)E!Ax
3. ((x)E!Ex->(x)E!Ax).((x)E!Ax->(x)E!Ex) 2, ME
|4. (x)Gx Assume
|5. (x)E!Ex 1,4, MP
|6. (x)E!Ex->(x)E!Ax 3, Simp
|7. (x)E!Ax 5,6, MP
8. (x)Gx->(x)E!Ax 4-7, CP

The argument is explained as follows: (1) Reads “Angels exist in aeviternity.” (2) Reads “Aeviternity is equivalent to A-series time.” (3) is a material equivalence rule from premise 2. (4) is an assumption of the antecedent of the conclusion. If, by assuming the antecedent of the conclusion, we can derive the consequent, then the argument is valid. (5) is derived from modus ponens. (6) is resultant from simplification. (7) is derived from modus ponens. (8) is the conclusion that is derived by conditional proof. It reads, “Angels exist in A-series time.”

The argument is valid. To defeat the argument, one must challenge either the interpretation of the premises or the soundness of the particular premises. If the argument is sound, it opens the door to contemporary discussion while honoring the hard and helpful work of Aquinas.

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