The movie--Arrival--and the nature of time

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Timmay, Feb 22, 2017.

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  1. Timmay

    Timmay Puritan Board Freshman

    NOTE: Movie (Arrival) spoilers below!!!

    In the movie the main character, Louise Banks, comes to experience time non-linearly. She doesn't move back and forward through time but can view it when she wills, merely because an alien language allowed her to think in that way. It is shown that one of the effects of an event has its cause in the future, but for Louise Banks there is neither past nor future. When the information is gained does not matter because there is no when. This seems to put the nature of casual events out of wack.

    Now it seems like God could perceive time in the same way but he orders events in a linear fashion.

    But nonlinear time doesn't seem to work because do you really have a cause and effect anymore if it's not linear? Or does cause and effect have to be linear? I am reminded of something C.S. Lewis said. A friend arrives home safely after a plane ride. Hours later and miles away, you pray for the friend to arrive home safely. Let's say God answered your prayer and used it as the means to get your friend home safely, even though your prayer occurred AFTER your friend had already arrived. Because God is outside of time can He not make causes and effects non-linear as it would appear to us?

    And then if we could experience time in a non-linear way or we were outside of time, it almost implies that our journey would be fixed because there is no past, present, or future, there just is.
    Just rambling here based upon what I saw in the movie. Hoping for discussion.


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  2. BGF

    BGF Puritan Board Sophomore

    "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff."

    -The Doctor ​
     
  3. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The problem with asking for The Lord to do something after the event has passed messes up with how Our Lord works by ordinary means. Do not get me wrong I have thought as CS has here, but now dismiss such out of hand knowing how Our Lord works.
     
  4. Timmay

    Timmay Puritan Board Freshman

    But prayer would be an ordinary means...


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  5. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Indeed it is. Prayer is for something to happen in the future. Gratefulness is for something that happened in the past.
     
  6. Timmay

    Timmay Puritan Board Freshman

    Does Scripture limit prayer like that?




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  7. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    in my opinion, yes it does.
     
  8. Timmay

    Timmay Puritan Board Freshman

    Ok. I'll have to think about that more.

    I would say if prayer works in the way I described, it might give license to praying for the dead. "My prayers for my dead friend will be the means to save him in the past."


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  9. BGF

    BGF Puritan Board Sophomore

    While it may be interesting to speculate about time and causality from God's perspective, we frankly cannot. And perhaps we shouldn't try. Our speculation can easily inform our practice and lead to sin, such as your "prayers for the dead" example.
     
  10. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Eternity is God's timelessness, and is distinct from aeviternity (everlasting) in the created realms (which includes heaven). The timeless God interfaces with all forms of time in a superordinant manner; all forms of time being subordinate to Him. God is both "no-when" and "every-when", just as He is "no-where" and "every-where". God is not subject to creation, so sequential and spatial material and non-material creation do not contain or constrain Him in any parameter of existence and functionality.

    Time and space are not things that God is subject to. His existence is both transcendent to, and immanent within, all created parameters of existence; but He is not subject to time or space while everywhere present in all of creation. This is also the distinction between God's uncreated presence in creation when contrasted with the fallacies of pantheism and panentheism.

    There is no sequence of whens and/or wheres for God, all is but equally vivid to Him. God is uncreated Self-conscious Self-existence "before" He created; but there is no "before" for God. There is "before" for creation, including time; but there is no "before" for God. That's why there is no "eternity past". God alone is eternal, and eternity is one of His incommunicable attributes. But time had a beginning. An inception. So there is only aeviternity (everlasting/ness) going forward from that initial creation of time; hence, no "eternity past".
     
  11. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Stump is helpful here (footnote xxxv):

    "It is obviously absurd to pray in 1980 that Napoleon win at Waterloo when one knows what God does not bring about at Waterloo, but it might not seem absurd— at least not in the same way— to pray in 1980 that Napoleon lose at Waterloo. After all, your prayer and the battle are alike present to God; why should your prayer not be efficacious in bringing about Napoleon’s defeat? But, as a petition addressed to the will of God, a prayer is also an expression of the will of the one who prays it, and any temporal entity who prays in 1980, ‘Let Napoleon lose at Waterloo’, is to that extent pretending to have atemporal knowledge and an atemporal will. The only appropriate version of that prayer is ‘Let Napoleon have lost at Waterloo’, and for one who knows the outcome of the battle more than a hundred and fifty years ago, that prayer is pointless and in that sense absurd. But a prayer prayed in ignorance of the outcome of a past event is not pointless in that way. (We are thus disagreeing with Peter Geach, when he claims that ‘A prayer for something to have happened is simply an absurdity, regardless of the utterer’s knowledge or ignorance of how things went’ (God and the Soul (London, 1969), p. 90); but we find much else to admire in his chapter ‘Praying for Things to Happen’.) On the hypothesis that there is an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent God, the praying of such a prayer would indeed qualify as ‘the only instance of behaviour, on the part of ordinary people whose mental processes we can understand, designed to affect the past and coming quite naturally to us’ (Michael Dummett, ‘Bringing About the Past’, Philosophical Review 73(3) (July 1964), p. 341). We are grateful to members of the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell for pointing out the relevance of Dummett’s discussion. Dummett does not draw on the concept of divine eternality, but, if it is acceptable in its own right, its introduction would lead to a modification and strengthening of some of the claims he makes— e.g., ‘I am not asking God that, even if my son has drowned, He should now make him not to have drowned; I am asking that, at the time of the disaster, He should then have made my son not to drown at that time’ (p. 342)"
    - Stump, Eleonore and Kretzmann, Norman, 1981, ‘Eternity’, Journal of Philosophy78(8): 429–458
    A contrary view to Stump: http://www.kevintimpe.com/files/prayers.pdf
     
  12. Timmay

    Timmay Puritan Board Freshman

    So then it's only appropriate to pray for things that we don't know the outcome of?


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  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Not sure I understand this question. Are you talking about, for instance, that Washington crossed the Delaware and to pray that God will ensure that remains the case?
     
  14. Timmay

    Timmay Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes. That's what it sounds like Stump is saying.


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  15. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Theology must inform philosophy, not the other way around.
     
  16. Pete Williamson

    Pete Williamson Puritan Board Freshman

    I've been thinking about the way you stated this. The trouble I have with this discussion - even though I find it fascinating - is that it seems to me that the concept of "time" is limited to a linear progression of events. It's not a really a thing itself, but a way of measuring reality (can't think of a better word right now). Therefore wouldn't it be better to say that she didn't experience time in a non-linear fashion, but that she experienced reality in a non-linear/time-based way.

    Don't mean to be nit-picky, but I didn't start this thread. :)
     
  17. Timmay

    Timmay Puritan Board Freshman

    Perhaps but for one that's not how the movie portrays it. Also, future events are concurrent with the present but yet she still has a present to experience.
    I also think that we do experience time. You know "time flies when you're having fun." It's not that time moved faster, but our experience of it was maybe different than others.


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  18. Pete Williamson

    Pete Williamson Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree with you that we experience something and that there are times (can't get away from that word!) when it seems to us to pass more slowly or swiftly than those around us are experiencing it or in relation to the means we use to measure it (clocks, calendars, etc.). The only point I'm trying to make is that I'm not sure technically that it's time that we are experiencing, idioms like "time flies" aside. I'm still not convinced that "time" is something that can be experienced; it's not a thing but a measurement.

    Anyway, the reason for bringing this up at all is because I think being clear on what time is helps to disentangle the questions that the movie raised about how we perceive reality from a perspective that is so thoroughly immersed and shaped by a linear understanding of the progression of events.

    Hope this makes sense. I don't mean to derail the discussion. Really enjoyed the movie, btw!
     
  19. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Hated the movie :)
     
  20. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    In connection with those into UFOlogy, I have sometimes wondered whether we could make an argument that nothing exists except for present events based on the fact that God's knowledge of the future is based on his decree, and it is the decree which is the reason for events that come to pass. The past once existed and the future shall exist. Of course, even if the argument could be made, relativity theory makes matters difficult--if not impossible--to defend that only the present exists (at the very least be making it impossible to define "the present"). Thoughts? If this argument could be made, then it would work for the question of the OP too.
     
  21. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    This thread is still going? May I pray that it never happened? :pilgrim:
     
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  22. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I wish you would.
     
  23. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    Nahh . . . it was more of a rhetorical question. I'm sure you knew that, though. ;)
     
  24. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Indeed. I was not suggesting you use your ordinary powers of moderation, but rather your extraordinary time-bending power of post-sequential prayer.
     
  25. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  26. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    I'll pass. :lol:
     
  27. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    What's that quote about being educated into imbecility? How would you know if your prayers had been answered? You'd be caught in this constant "butterfly effect" of people praying for things to happen in the past that change the present.

    Imagine someone praying that their parents never meet...
     
  28. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Indeed. I suppose it would be argued that the will of God revealed prior to the efficacious prayer towards the past would be revealed by the fact that it all never happened, as no one would but God have the knowledge of the event any longer as it all would just fade away..... ;)

    Then again, such a view smuggles in Molinism's concepts of middle knowledge of true counterfactuals of human freedom. Sigh.
     
  29. cloudman

    cloudman Puritan Board Freshman

    I am no expert on this topic by any means, but praying for God to change something that happened in the past is to ask God to change His decree. Why would God change what He has decreed? All the potential answers to that question that come to mind are super heretical.

    I think Romans 11:33-34 really speaks to this issue.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2017
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