Friday, June 14, 2019

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

i) One objection to a timeless Creator is that causes precede effects. But is that necessarily the case? For instance, when I stand in front of a mirror, I cause my reflection to move. But is there a temporal delay between my action and the corresponding image in the mirror? It appears to be simultaneous or instantaneous. 

Perhaps, from the standpoint of physics, there's an indetectable delay in the transmission of light from my body to the reflection. However, I'm not sure if that's the case. Given the speed of light compared to the distance between my body and the mirror, is there a measurable delay?

That raises the question of whether a light beam is a continuously dense stream. Is the transmission of light infinitely divisible into ever smaller intervals? By contrast, what if is light granular, so that below a certain scale or threshold, there are no intervals? This goes to the famous particle/wave duality in physics. Admittedly, in this example, cause and effect both take place in time, so it's not strictly analogous to a timeless Creator, but I'm just addressing the specific objection that causes necessarily precede their effects. 

ii) Parenthetically, this example illustrates the limitations of empiricism. Does the reflection cause me to move or do I cause the reflection to move? Does my shadow cause me to move or do I cause my shadow to move? We intuitively understand that there's a relation of asymmetrical dependence, but that's not given in the phenomenon of reflected motion. To judge by appearances, it might be symmetrical or it might be the case that my shadow causes me to move! 

Imagine a science fiction story in which the motion of the shadow or reflection is primary while your corresponding motion is secondary! You move because the image in the mirror made you move in his direction! The shadow makes you move in tandem with the shadow! 

iii) Although that's backwards in physical reality, there's a sense in which, in relation to predestination, I'm the man in the mirror. What I do is a direct reflection of God's plan. I'm the shadow cast by God's light. 


  1. Perhaps to reinforce this point:

    According to special relativity, the speed of light is the same in any reference frame. As such, the time and location of both the emission as well as the absorption of a photon of light is the same. The photon of light doesn't experience either time or distance (cf. time dilation and length contraction). Rather, it would seem, the photon of light is at one point in an observer's reference frame then at another point in the observer's reference frame. In this respect, it is stationary with respect to itself, i.e. it's not moving with respect to itself, for "movement" is a property based on the observer's reference frame. Anyway, the nature and behavior of light is utterly fascinating.

  2. There are simultaneous causes as well. Similar to a weight pressing down onto a pillow. I've never understood the idea that causes must temporally precede their effects, it simply isn't true. Now, they must logically precede their effects, but that isn't the same thing.

  3. Ed Feser has two categories of causes, linear and hierarchical. Before and after are linear, the head depressing the pillow is hierarchical. He then argues that there are hierarchical series that imply God without requiring a linear series back to the creation.