Aristotle's "time has no beginning"

Hi there,

I’m new to philosophy, taking my first course in philosophy in university ‘Metaphysical structures of the world’… wow a hard first up topic in philosophy.

Lets say if I argue against there being a first cause to the universe, starting with trying to prove that time extends infinitely into the past, and thus it has no beginning and no first cause.

Aristotle claims that every instant in time ‘t’, has a moment immediately before ‘t’ and a moment immediately after ‘t’. Therefore, there cannot be a beginning to time, as that moment when time began would have been preceeded immediately by another point in time. Thus, our arbitrary instant when time began was not the first moment of time after all.

How would you argue against and for Aristotle’s point of view here?

Please try to explain it simply for me, I’m still learning the ‘phil lingo’ :slight_smile:

Hi David. I’d love to help you, but we have a rule here not to do people’s homework for them. I did take Aristotle in college, however, and will help you where I can without doing all your work for you. : )

First, I don’t recognise the arguments you bring up: they sound more physical than metaphysical, and i recommend you go to your college library and find Aristotle’s Physics. I think the topic is handled in Chapter VIII. It would help if your teacher gave you the line number for reference. (I could refer to it better.) Actually, I don’t recognise the arguments as Aristotelian, but in any case, Aristotle speaks of God as cause of the world in several ways.

I think a problem in your post (though i have been wrong on Aristotle before on this site) is that Aristotle (to my knowledge) didn’t believe you could traverse an actual infinite. So you cannot have points in time next to each other. I don’t think you get an infinite past being traversed either – though i may just be confusing this for a medieval argument for God’s existence. That may be a good argument against the point you bring up. But in any case, I don’t remember exactly how Aristotle dealt with the beginning of the universe, at least haven’t found it in my copy yet tonight.

Let me know how you are doing on this, huh?

Vale bene,
(Be well,)

Wel, just because there has always been a time before now for all the time we can go back doesn’t mean that there cannot be a start.

Assume that we have a timeline that start at t0, and then goes t0, t1, t2, ,…,tk-1, tk, tk+1…, tn, where tn is today, and tk is the time where the first time a man noticed the concept of time and previous time. Then there would always be a moment immediately before and a moment immediately after (to our knowledge!), but there is still a starting time t0, which had no preceding time.

It seems to me that Aristotle’s claim is based on emperical data, that we have always observed a time before, and thus there has always been a time before.

Just my own thoughts, I’ve never studied philosophy at a university, so you I’d recommend that you do what my real name suggest and read up on it.

Also, the moderns set a counter-argument against saying that the universe had a beginning. Some claim that the three-dimensional world can be warped into higher dimensions of space so that time returns on itself, repeating eldlessly. Not sure who is responsible for this position. Nietzsche spoke of “eternal recurrence”, but I don’t know if he was the first to do so – or who was first to speak about it scientifically.

I think when you assign tk-1 there is a poor usage. If tk were t0, that assignment would beg the question. You already posited a beginning of your time line at t-zero, then you present a negative part of your series [tk-1] that can go before it. But t0 was set as the beginning of your series. It looks like that premise is denied later in the proof.

my real name

tk is not t0, it’s at least t3. tk represents the first time humans became aware of a time and a previous time.