Decision Making as a Defeater to Kalam: A Response

The existence of decision making seems to imply some change, and thus temporality. How can God decide to create explanatorily prior to the existence of time? First we must answer what it means to decide, and what about it implies temporality. It seems to me that decision making involves the selection of an action from a collection of possible actions.[1] If a decision involves a change of mental states, then temporality is implied by it. Below I will attempt to construct the argument against the Kalam Cosmological Argument that decision making does imply temporality, and thus, it is concluded that God’s did not timelessly decide to bring about some thing x (the universe).

The argument goes something like this,

  1. All decisions imply temporality.
  2. If a decision is said to be timelessly made, it is not a decision.
  3. God’s decision to bring about x is said to be timelessly made.
  4. Therefore, God did not decide to bring about x.

(1) might be dismissed on the grounds that, properly understood, God does not change in his decision to create, and so decision making does not necessarily imply temporality; that is, God had, in His timeless state, decided to bring about x without the changing of mental states. It could be said that God has “always” decided to will some thing x. This would be analogous to a man spawned at the age of 40 with the decision to go to the barber and shave his head.

Another response might be that God could be said to have any number of propositions available to him timelessly, and that God decided on one of these propositions simultaneously with his creation of the time manifold. Simultaneous decision making, that is, deciding to do x simultaneously with the bringing about of x, doesn’t appear to be inconceivable (at least conceptually), as it would appear to be the case that the decision to move my arm occurs simultaneously with the moving of my arm. It probably isn’t the case that the moving of my arm occurs simultaneously with my decision to move my arm, but this merely demonstrates the conceivability of simultaneous decision making; and I think the fruitful discussions on simultaneous causation can be reapplied to simultaneous decision making. God’s decision to create was causal: God could be said to cause the universe simultaneously with its coming to be.

In conclusion, the defender of Kalam needn’t accept that decision making necessarily implies temporality, for God could be conceived to decide from his timeless state, and accepting that decision making involves temporality doesn’t render Kalam inert as the reapplication of simultaneous causation to decision making bites the bullet, and remains unscathed.

[1] Eilon, S. “What Is a Decision?” Management Science 16.4 (1969): B-172–189. Print.

3 comments

  • Nice argument. I don’t have much to say to it, since it seems pretty much sound. Since God is timeless (that is, he exists in a completely different time from us), decisions do not imply temporality for him.

    Nice illustration with the arm movement analogy, too. Although you’re probably right in thinking that the decision and the bringing about of moving an arm does not occur simultaneously, it still manages to show how God can decide to do something while bringing it about simultaneously. At first, I couldn’t see how it was a proper argument since the comparison didn’t seem sound (if my arm moves after the decision of moving it, than it’s not really an example to simultaneous decision making and causation, I thought), but after a clarification of the word conceivable, it became much clearer. It helps to look up words even if you think you’re familiar with them.

    In any case, I hope I got the bulk of your argument correct.

  • Thank you again for commenting! I think it is important to press those saying that decision making cannot be understood within a timeless context why it cannot. After all, it isn’t explicitly contradictory, and so it must be implicit, and I don’t think anyone has shown this.

    I might have to revise this post because God would seem to have decided to create from eternity, and this follows from him being an omniscient being. He would know when he would bring about this or that event, and so the decision would have been made from eternity (read: timeless state).

    It also looks like this argument is a variation on the argument that there cannot be a timeless person, and I do not think that or this argument stands. There doesn’t appear to be anything essential to what constitutes a person or mind that makes it temporal. I must refer you to the following essay by William Lane Craig: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/timelessness-personhood.html

    Thanks again for contributing to the discussion!

  • “Thank you again for commenting! I think it is important to press those saying that decision making cannot be understood within a timeless context why it cannot. After all, it isn’t explicitly contradictory, and so it must be implicit, and I don’t think anyone has shown this. ”

    I agree, and I think it applies to a lot of philosophical arguments against Christianity. Most people (myself included) tend to consider certain philosophical propositions to be absolutely impossible. In the nontheist’s case, it applies to most of the propositions attributed to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit (the Trinity, being a good example) or any Christian doctrine.

    That looks like an interesting read, thanks for posting it, I’ll be sure to take a look at it soon. I like Bill Craig’s writing style. It’s easy to understand without being too simple.

    Oh, and you’re welcome again! I look forward to contributing to several more posts on this blog. :)

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