Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Three apples

I'd like to expand on an illustration I used in this post:

In this post I take two things for granted: the existence of abstract objects and God as a timeless, spaceless being. Abstract objects, if they exist, are timeless, spaceless entities. So there's a parallel between God and abstract objects in that regard.

I'd add that on one interpretation, abstract objects are divine ideas. They don't exist apart from God, but in God. 

The question is how, or whether, a timeless, spaceless God can become Incarnate. The hypostatic union involves a relation between something outside of time and space and something inside of time and space.

My argument is hypothetical. It doesn't depend on my proving that abstract objects exist, or that God is timeless and spaceless. I'm just using an example to illustrate the conceptual possibility of a divine incarnation, in classical theistic terms.

Numbers are a paradigm-case of abstract objects. Suppose I buy three apples at the store. These are recognizably three physical objects. Yet what's the relationship between threeness as an abstract universal and threeness as a concrete particular? 

The three apples are finite instances of that abstract mathematical object. But they only approximate threeness. As an abstract object, three has exact immutable boundaries. By contrast, the apples are fuzzy in space and time. They have fuzzy spatial boundaries. According to atomic theory, the "solid" apples are energy fields. Mostly empty space. The distinction between the apple and the surrounding air is relative. Where the apple leaves off and the air begins is relative. At an atomic level, the apple blends into the surrounding field, with a dynamic interchange of elementary particles. Something like that.

In addition, the apples have fuzzy temporal boundaries. Because the apples decay, their diachronic identity is unstable. That's undergoing continuous, subtle change. Even if they're not eaten, the apples will disintegrate. That specific pattern of particles will become disorganized and reorganize as something else, combining with something else. By contrast, the number three is an abstract structure or relation is timeless. 

There's a sense in which the abstract object is present in the physical exemplification. A representational presence, where a collection of three apples constitute a sample that stands for that universal relation. That's one way to analogize the Incarnation, as the intersection of time and eternity, space and incorporeality.  

Notice that this explanation doesn't resort to paradox. Rather, it provides a comparison. 

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