, Volume 188, Issue 3, pp 331-347

The problem of predestination: as a prelude to A. N. Prior’s tense logic

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Abstract

Arthur Norman Prior’s early theological writings have been relatively neglected for many years. Moreover, to the extent that they have been discussed at all they have been treated mainly as youthful work quite separate from Prior’s later work as a philosopher and logician. However, as interest in Prior’s achievements has been growing significantly in recent years it has become more important to investigate the development with his overall work. In fact, Prior’s putatively “youthful” theological work overlapped his work as a philosopher and logician for many years, as is richly documented by examples discussed in this paper. A particularly important theme is the problem of predestination. This paper presents comprehensive evidence that this theme, which was Prior’s most important single preoccupation as a theological writer, was a most important source of inspiration for his development of tense logic. Via questions regarding divine foreknowledge and human free will, predestination was to motivate Prior as a logician to focus on time and tense. Whilst investigating this development, the paper also traces Prior’s parallel development from Calvinist Christian believer to a more agnostic position.