Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dienekes on Mortal and Immortal

Dienekes Pontikos writes:

In a sense, Maverick Philosopher has a point, since it is difficult to conceive of a single person having two contradictory natures, e.g., a number greater than two cannot be prime and even at the same time.

But is there a contradiction in the case of Jesus Christ, immortal God and mortal man? On the face of it, mortal and immortal are opposites, so one cannot be mortal and immortal without logical contradiction. What does immortal mean? Is it really a negation of mortal, and especially when applied to God? One meaning of immortal is that which exists in time, but has no end in time, i.e., its time duration is an interval [beginning, infinity). This clearly contradicts the meaning of mortal which is [beginning, end].

But, when applied to God, immortal does not mean [beginning,infinity) because God is outside time, and indeed God's immortality indicates his existence outside time rather than his finitude [infinitude?] within time. Therefore, "immortal" as applied to God is not a negation of "mortal" as applied to man, and hence there is no logical contradiction in asserting that a person can be immortal God and mortal man.

BV: Suppose we agree that

X is immortal =df X is outside of time and such that it cannot cease to exist if it does exist.

God is clearly immortal in the sense just defined. We then say

X is mortal =df either X is in time or X is such that it can cease to exist if it does exist.

Socrates, like every man, is clearly mortal in this sense. Now could one and the same person, Jesus Christ, be both immortal and mortal in the senses defined? No. For if both conjuncts of the right-hand side of the first definition are satisfied, then one of the disjuncts of the right-hand side of the second definition must be satisfied -- which yields a contradiction.