Further to ‘Philosophy and the God of Bleak Things,’ the abstracts of two new research papers appear in Improbable Research. The papers address the question of whether or not it is possible for God to fall into boredom. (See below.)
Yuko Andrić and Attila Tanyi’s paper, ‘God and eternal boredom,’ argue that, ‘God cannot be omnitemporal, but must be timeless; and if he cannot be timeless, then he does not exist.’
However, most arguments for the existence of God have it that He exists outside of time. God is no clairvoyant. He does not see into the future because there is no future, past or present for God. Being timeless, He ‘sees’ the world sub specie aeternitatis – ‘under the aspect of eternity.’
God, that is, cannot find out about things; for that would mean that prior to finding things out His knowledge would have been imperfect. And God is all perfect.
This brings us to a familiarly knotty problem. How did God come into being and what is His nature?
Since everything has a cause, there must be some first cause. Hence, God the creator. But how could there be a first cause? The cosmological argument that takes us back to a first cause claims it is causa sui – cause of itself.
So, God causes Himself to be.
St Anselm (1033-1109)
How can something be a cause of itself?
And here we are given versions of the ontological argument. At its simplest, St Anselm (1033-1109) argues as follows (my paraphrase):
- We can conceive of God (the greatest possible being)
- Such a being contains all perfection
- Existence is a perfection
- We cannot conceive of a greatest possible being that lacks any perfection
- God (the greatest possible being) necessarily exists
So, the ontological argument, if accepted, explains the internal nature of a first cause. That cause itself occurs outside of time. Time flows from it. In conjunction with the cosmological argument, it claims to account for the nature of causality and, thereby, the causality of nature.
What is it like for God to see all things?
Nothing. For to see things is to have a perspective upon them. It is to see them from a point of view. But God, being all perfect, can have no such partial point of view.
All our perceptions are necessarily imperfect. We see the front of the cube but not its back. We feel things we are able to reach out and touch but not things remote from us. Similarly, with sound. But that is because we are located; and God cannot be so located. What God ‘sees’ is the view from nowhere.
It is no accident that Thomas Nagel, the philosopher of science, entitles his book, The View From Nowhere. For science, too, aims at a world of impartial truth, a world independent of our perspective. And so our conception of science and theology begin to converge.
Consider, again the cube. I can know, in the abstract, that a cube has six equal square sides. But I could never see them independent of the perspectival distortions provided by the space the cube and I occupy, let alone see all six sides at the same time. God might know the nature of a cube but he could never see one.
At the closure of Stephen Hawkins, A Brief History of Time, the celebrated cosmologist considers why the universe exists. To this he says, ‘”If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God” He later says that he had used the term ‘God’ figuratively.
So too do theologians.
Has God ever been bored, or is currently bored, or might, at some stage, become bored? In a 2017 paper for the scholarly journal Religious Studies (Volume 53, Issue 1, pp. 51-70) authors Vuko Andrić (Akademischer Rat., University of Bayreuth, Germany) and Attila Tanyi (University of Tromsø, Norway) suggest that if God is omnitemporal [i.e. always has been, is, and always will be] he* might be quite likely to suffer from boredom. And if so, they say, that would give rise to a fundamental philosophical paradox :
“[However] since God is the greatest possible being (as we assumed God to be, following perfect being theology), he cannot be bored. Hence, God cannot be omnitemporal, but must be timeless; and if he cannot be timeless, then he does not exist.”
This viewpoint, however, has now been questioned, perhaps challenged, or even refuted, by Jerome Gellman (emeritus professor of philosophy, Ben-Gurion University, Israel) who, in a new paper for the same journal, asserts that :
“Since God has no self-needs, God has no unfulﬁlled needs. But, to fall into boredom requires experiencing a lack, having self-regarding needs unfulﬁlled. So, God cannot fall into boredom.”
And so, by extension :
“Since it is logically impossible for God to fall into boredom, God can be everlasting in time.”
See: ‘It is logically impossible for everlasting God to fall into boredom’ Religious Studies (2018) 54, 285–288
* BONUS Assignment [optional] : The authors of both papers consistently use the personal pronoun ‘he’ when referring to God – discuss.
Ed studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and later wrote his PhD in Philosophy at UCL. He has written extensively on the visual arts and is presently writing a book on everyday aesthetics. He is an elected member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA). He taught at University of Westminster and at University of Kent and he continues to make art.