TYLER JOURNEAUX GRAHAM
Department of Philosophy, Western University
Tyler Journeaux Graham is a graduate of the University of Oxford, having completed an M.St. in Philosophical Theology with a focus on the philosophy of time and the question of God’s alleged sempiternity (which is to say, perdurance throughout time, rather than atemporal eternity). He is deeply interested in what the special and general theories of relativity, the philosophy of language, epistemology, modal logic and metaphysics have to say about the (ir)reality of time, relations of absolute simultaneity, the notion of temporal flow, and what we can responsibly believe about such things. His areas of specialization consist of the philosophy of time and the philosophy of religion, but his areas of interest span epistemology, metaphysics, medieval philosophy, analytic philosophy and the philosophy of science.
During my Bachelor’s I pursued an undergraduate thesis on God’s relationship to time from the perspective of analytic theology which sought to explore theological implications of accepting an A-theory of time (on which, speaking generally, there is an objective fact about what is present, past, or future, not merely relative to some observer in a frame of reference, but absolutely and as a matter of perception-independent fact) or a B-theory of time (on which, speaking generally, there is no absolute distinction between what is past, present, or future), insofar as those implications could be ascertained and appraised using the resources of analytic philosophy while adopting its methodology. I found that a Christian research program coupled with the B-theory would be incompatible with metaphysical finitism, but that the research program of perfect being theology coupled with the A-theory would be incompatible with God’s divine simplicity and immutability in case God is omniscient. I also arrived at an argument against the A-theory from the impossibility of expressing it using the semantics of logically possible worlds, which gives us strong reason to suspect the A-theory of being a pseudo-possibility.
For my Master’s degree at Oxford, I focused my research on arguments for or against the A-theory from the special theory of relativity, and arguments in metaphysics and the philosophy of mathematics for finitism (the view that it is logically impossible that there be an actually infinite set of definite and discrete beings). I intended to explore epistemological arguments for belief in the A-theory, as well as arguments in the philosophy of language for the A-theory of time, but my research couldn’t be finished due to circumstances beyond my control. What I found, however, was that the special theory of relativity admits of at least one interpretation (namely, the Neo- Lorentzian interpretation) which is empirically identical to the interpretation preferred by the majority of physicists (provided by Minkowski and Einstein) insofar as it makes all and only the same physical predictions under all circumstances. It sacrifices parsimony in terms of its theoretical entities (for, it posits an empirically undetectable privileged reference frame from which absolute time can be measured and absolute simultaneity defined), but it isn’t clear that this cost makes its alternative empirically preferable precisely because it comes, arguably, with some explanatory advantages. Moreover, I argued that there is a philosophical parody which runs with parity from Hilbert’s Hotel, the Grim Reaper paradox, or other such thought experiments often offered in support of metaphysical finitism (and so, contrary to an implication of the B-theory on a Christian research program), and an argument from the Banach-Tarski paradox against metaphysical infinitesimals of the sorts to which the A-theorist may need to appeal in defining the temporal scope of the present.
I intend, next, to pursue arguments from the general theory of relativity for or against the A-theory of time, with a particular focus on the suggestion, now defended by Dean Zimmerman, that in place of generalizing the Neo- Lorentzian interpretation of special relativity to general relativity, the A-theorist may want to resort, instead, to adding structure to space-time by supposing that a space-time foliation (that is, a stacking of space-like hypersurfaces) enjoys some metaphysical privilege. I will also explore implications in the philosophy of language of accepting or rejecting the B-theory of time with a particular focus on whether there can be a meaningful dislocation of semantic content from propositional content. Finally, I mean to explore the epistemological situation in which we are left vis-à-vis our philosophy of time, addressing both whether commitment to the reality of temporal flow may, with philosophical propriety, be regarded as a properly basic belief, as well as whether there is sufficiently good argument to treat that defeasible belief as, on balance, defeated.
Journeaux, Tyler. “The Life of St. Anthony of Padua: A Mendicant Hagiography.” InKannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies Vol. 3, (Montreal, 2012): 23-32.
Journeaux, Tyler. “Religious Assent in Roman Catholicism.” In KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies Vol. 3, (Montreal, 2012): 33-39.
Submitting for publication:
The Trinity as a Postulate of Natural Theology (co-author Dr. Daniel Vecchio)
An Argument for Moderate Modal Realism
Invited Talks or Conference Presentations:
Katabasis Conference, (Concordia University & Université de Laval) Winter 2014 – Bellarmine’s attack on John Calvin’s interpretation of Christ’s descent into Hell.