The Promise of a New Past
Lebens (Samuel) & Goldschmidt (Tyron)
Source: Philosophers' Imprint, Vol. 17, No. 18, August 2017, pp. 1-25
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. If God found this paper offensive, would it now be too late for him to make it such that it was never written? Can God change the past? If he could, would he?
  2. Our treatment of these questions is based upon two Jewish traditions.
    1. On some ways of working them out, God will one day change the past by eliminating evil from it. This makes for a new kind of response to the problem of evil: the Divine Proofreader Theory.
    2. On other ways of working the traditions out, the past evil isn’t eliminated, but personal responsibility for certain sins is removed from the sinner. This makes for a new theory of atonement: the Agent Substitution Theory.
  3. Plan1:-
    • In §1, we outline the two traditions.
      • UF (Ultimate Forgiveness): God will one day erase from history the sins of the penitent, making it such that they never occurred.
      • NME (No More Evil): God will remove absolutely all traces of evil from the past — moral evil and natural evil. It will one day be the case that nothing bad will ever have happened.
    • In §§2–5, we explore theories of time in order to accommodate the traditions.
      • In §2, we explore the notion of hypertime.
      • In §3, we present Hud Hudson’s view. He allows God to change the past but, on his view, there is a sort of evil that God can’t change — the evils of the hyper-past. We move beyond this limitation by appealing to an infinite hierarchy of timelines.
      • However, in §4, we set out a more streamlined metaphysics of a “moving spotlight” theory of time.
      • This allows us, in §5, to explain, without the metaphysics of hypertime, how God could change the past, leaving no trace of evil whatsoever.
    • In §6, we respond to a number of objections.
    • In §7, we draw a distinction that helps us address why God might want to change the past.
    • In §8 we use that distinction to frame the Agent Substitution Theory.
    • In §9 we present the Divine Proofreader Theory. Our metaphysics of time makes the case that God can change the past, while our Divine Proofreader and Agent Substitution Theories explain why God might want to.
    • In §10, we respond to some objections.

  1. Two Views
  2. Hypertime
  3. Relegating Evil to the Hyper-Past
    → 3.1 Heavenly Super Tasks
  4. The Moving Spotlight and Hyper-Presentism
  5. Scene Changes in the Dark
  6. Objections to the Metaphysics
    → Objection 1
    → Objection 2
    → Objection 3
  7. Deletion and Amputation
  8. The Agent Substitution Theory of Atonement
  9. The Divine Proofreader
  10. Objections and Replies
    → Objection 1
    → Objection 2
    → Objection 3
  11. Conclusion

  1. "Belot (Gordon) - Dust, Time and Symmetry", Belot
  2. "Dummett (Michael) - Bringing About the Past", Dummett
  3. Hud Hudson, The Fall and Hypertime
  4. "Markosian (Ned) - How Fast Does Time Pass?", Markosian
  5. "Plantinga (Alvin) - The Nature of Necessity", Plantinga
  6. "Skow (Bradford) - Objective Becoming", Skow
  7. "Smart (J.C.C.) - The River of Time", Smart
  8. "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings", van Inwagen
  9. "Williams (Donald C.) - The Myth of Passage", Williams
  10. "Williamson (Timothy) - Existence and Contingency", Williamson
  11. "Zimmerman (Dean) - The Privileged Present: Defending an 'A-Theory' of Time", Zimmerman


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 2:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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