What are the necessary logical conditions for something to be eternal (i.e. without beginning, always existing)?

  • What are the conditions for something to be mortal?
    – Asphir Dom
    Jul 31 '13 at 22:35
  • I don't believe that such logical conditions are possible since the idea 'always existing' is incoherent. Being outside time would require being unmanifest and 'existing' would be an inappropriate word for such a state. The 'mystical' view would be that in eternity the time is always Now. This would be the 'Divine Instant' or 'Perennial Now'.
    – user20253
    Aug 19 '18 at 12:11
  • @PeterJ who says outside time is unmanifest?
    – michael
    Aug 20 '18 at 13:36
  • @michael - It just seems inevitable. If a phenomenon, entity or 'hypostase' does not occupy space or persist in time then how can it manifest?
    – user20253
    Aug 21 '18 at 11:40
  • @PeterJ one could say the opposite. it is inevitable that it would be manifest. how else do the non-eternal things exist if not as an extension of the eternal?
    – michael
    Aug 21 '18 at 17:08

I can only see three conditions analytically. I'd say one of these is 'necessary', but really what it is doing is elaborating on what is meant by eternal.

  1. It is outside of time so that the notion of time doesn't apply to it.

  2. It is wholly within time. It begins with the beginning of time and it ends with the ending of time.

  3. It overlaps time. It 'begins' before the beginning of time and it 'ends' after the ending of time.

An example of condition 1: In Islam (I don't know enough about theology to say which school exactly) and also the Christian philosopher and theologian Aquinas, say that Allah/God being eternal means He is outside of time. Also, mathematical concepts, if one accepts that they belong to a Platonic realm also lie outside time - as do Plato's theory of forms.

Of 2: There is one thing that is eternal by definition and that is time itself. A second thing that is eternal is the universe itself. Now, even if time were to last 20 billion years only, what could it mean for something to last longer, for there is no more time for it to last longer. This is how Stephen Hawking for example argues that there is nothing beyond the beginning or end of our time.

Of 3: But are we limited by our imagination? Can there not be more than one kind of time? There is nothing to logically insist that there must be only one. All we have is the evidence of our eyes and our inner sense of time. It is in this sense that Spinoza will say that nature is one of the modes of God, that the character of eternity in nature derives from God, but God is the only true eternal substance.

It must be indestructible, but that doesn't mean that it can't undergo change or be composite. (Even an ordinary cat which lives and breathes is permanent and unchanging in some way whilst it obviously changes).

To be honest, all of these ideas are rehearsed and explicated in the notion of substance which was originally articulated by Aristotle for his metaphysics, picked up then by Islamic and Christian theologians and then by modern rationalist science and philosophy. One can consider it to have roots before that. For example, the idea of apeiron (the boundless) by the Milesian philosopher Anaximander who based his cosmology on it.

  • how can it be composite? if that were the case it needs its parts but the parts dont need it, hence the existence of the parts must have preceded its existence and therefore it cannot be eternal.
    – user813801
    Jun 17 '13 at 6:46
  • Thats not quite correct - existence of parts either precede its existence or are simultaneous with its existence. Jun 17 '13 at 9:08
  • Why must it be indestructible? Isn't it possible that whatever way it could be destroyed simply never happened?
    – commando
    Jun 17 '13 at 15:08
  • @commando: I don't follow you. I'm just going with the usual sense of destruction which is that it happens in time, which means it is less than eternal. Jun 17 '13 at 15:50
  • @MoziburUllah I thought the usual definition was simply "cease to exist," but if that's how you're reading it then I agree.
    – commando
    Jun 17 '13 at 16:16

Assuming: By 'eternal' you mean: "Eternity (or forever) is endless time. In philosophy and mathematics, an infinite duration is also called sempiternity, or everlasting."

Basis: Existence is based on being directly(e.g. senses) or indirectly(e.g. logic) perceived by a self.

Elaboration of the basis: For existence to be confirmed direct or indirect perception is a must.

  • Direct perception includes all the sensory inputs irrespective of them being augmented or bare.
  • Indirect perception includes all notions of logic, including faith based on logical interpretation of experiences.
  • Self includes, apart from others, oneself, the consciousness that validates one's own existence. Oneself after resting in the confirmation of one's own existence, seeks the existence of others.
  • Without such perception by a self, existence cannot be confirmed in any way.

My Hypothesis: The only condition for something to be eternal would be:

  • To co-exist in perfect harmony with non-existence

Elaboration of the hypothesis: An eternal would not be dependent on the need to be validated/confirmed of its existence by any self. However, it does practice absolute control on confirmation of existence of itself, and hence the others. It therefore cannot be categorized as a sentient or a non-sentient existence. It is either, both and none, as per its own free will, in following ways:

  • Existent: It confirms its own existence and seeks others which includes responsiveness to stimuli

  • Non-existent: It negates its own self and hence if perceived by others appears to be non-existent

  • Both: It negates its own self but confirms the existence of others by including them in its-self that is been negated OR It negates the existence of others but confirms its own existence by seeking the confirmation of its-self alone, incessantly.

  • None: It does not perceive any self at all

Time is perceived indirectly by the self. Hence, something that can outlast the self is eternal.

  • according to this, can matter and energy be eternal?
    – user813801
    Jun 16 '13 at 6:11
  • @user813801 Matter certainly is not eternal. Particles of matter and their anti-particles are created through pair production, and they can they similarly annihilate each other. Energy is eternal in a way, but not in the way you probably think. Energy isn't a thing. It's a number assigned to physical systems.
    – David H
    Jun 16 '13 at 6:37
  • @DavidH i thought there was no such thing as energy by itself. energy is just a property of "something" (particles/antiparticles)
    – user813801
    Jun 16 '13 at 7:21
  • @user813801 That's basically what I just said. For more detail check out Lubos' answer at physics.stackexchange.com/questions/3014/….
    – David H
    Jun 16 '13 at 7:47
  • @DavidH what about quantum fluctuations whereby particles appear/disappear due to energy "noise" from the uncertainty principle. isnt this an example of pure energy becoming a particle.
    – user813801
    Jun 16 '13 at 8:14

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