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Growing Block Views

Edited by Sam Baron (University of Western Australia)
Assistant editor: James Darcy (University of Virginia)
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Summary

The growing block view of time can be seen as the combination of two theses. First of all, the growing block view is committed to a dynamic account of time, on which there is an objective, changing present. The growing block conception of time shares this commitment with a number of other A-theoretic accounts of time, including presentism and the moving spotlight theory. The second commitment is ontological; past and present times exist, while future times do not exist. On the growing block view, there is a block of objectively past time-slices and one present slice. As the present changes, new present slices are added to the block. The combination of these dynamic and ontological commitments means that the growing block view of time is often portrayed as a middle ground between presentism and eternalism. 

Key works For an early defense of the growing block view of time see Broad 1923. Tooley 1997 is a contemporary book length defense of the position. More recent advocates of the growing block view of time include Forrest 2004, Forrest 2006, and Button 2006. The growing block view of time faces a serious skeptical challenge in accounting for our knowledge that we are present. Versions of this objection are raised or discussed in Bourne 2002, Braddon-Mitchell 2004, and Heathwood 2005.

Introductions Good introductions include Markosian 2010 and Miller 2013
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  1. Robert Merrihew Adams (1986). Time and Thisness. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):315-329.
    I have argued elsewhere that there are facts, and possibilities, that are not purely qualitative. In a second paper, however, I have argued that all possibilities are purely qualitative except insofar as they involve individuals that actually exist. In particular, I have argued that there are no thisnesses of nonactual individuals (where the thisness of x is the property of being x, or of being identical with x), and that there are no singular propositions about nonactual individuals (where a singular (...)
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  2. Sara Bernstein (2014). Time Travel and the Movable Present. In John Keller (ed.), Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter van Inwagen.
    In "Changing the Past" (2010), Peter van Inwagen argues that a time traveler can change the past without paradox in a growing block universe. After erasing the portion of past existence that generates paradox, a new, non-paradox-generating block can be "grown" after the temporal relocation of the time traveler. -/- I articulate and explore the underlying mechanism of Van Inwagen's model: the time traveler's control over the location of the objective present. Van Inwagen's model is aimed at preventing paradox by (...)
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  3. R. M. Blake (1925). On Mr. Broad's Theory of Time. Mind 34 (136):418-435.
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  4. C. Bourne (2002). When Am I? A Tense Time for Some Tense Theorists? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80 (3):359 – 371.
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  5. David Braddon-Mitchell (2013). 10. Fighting the Zombie of the Growing Salami1. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 8:351.
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  6. David Braddon-Mitchell (2004). How Do We Know It is Now Now? Analysis 64 (3):199–203.
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  7. Rachael Briggs & Graeme A. Forbes (2012). The Real Truth About the Unreal Future. In Karen Bennett & Dean Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 7.
    Growing-Block theorists hold that past and present things are real, while future things do not yet exist. This generates a puzzle: how can Growing-Block theorists explain the fact that some sentences about the future appear to be true? Briggs and Forbes develop a modal ersatzist framework, on which the concrete actual world is associated with a branching-time structure of ersatz possible worlds. They then show how this branching structure might be used to determine the truth values of future contingents. They (...)
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  8. C. D. Broad (1923). Scientific Thought. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
    First published in 2000. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
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  9. T. Button (2006). There's No Time Like the Present. Analysis 66 (2):130-135.
    No-futurists (‘growing block theorists’) hold that that the past and the present are real, but that the future is not. The present moment is therefore privileged: it is the last moment of time. Craig Bourne (2002) and David Braddon-Mitchell (2004) have argued that this position is unmotivated, since the privilege of presentness comes apart from the indexicality of ‘this moment’. I respond that no-futurists should treat ‘x is real-as-of y’ as a nonsymmetric relation. Then different moments are real-as-of different times. (...)
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  10. Tim Button (2007). Every Now and Then, No-Futurism Faces No Sceptical Problems. Analysis 67 (296):325–332.
    Tallant (2007) has challenged my recent defence of no-futurism (Button 2006), but he does not discuss the key to that defence: that no-futurism's primitive relation 'x is real-as-of y' is not symmetric. I therefore answer Tallant's challenge in the same way as I originally defended no-futurism. I also clarify no-futurism by rejecting a common mis-characterisation of the growing-block theorist. By supplying a semantics for no-futurists, I demonstrate that no-futurism faces no sceptical challenges. I conclude by considering the problem of how (...)
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  11. Tim Button (2006). There's No Time Like the Present. Analysis 66 (290):130–135.
    No-futurists ('growing block theorists') hold that that the past and the present are real, but that the future is not. The present moment is therefore privileged: it is the last moment of time. Craig Bourne (2002) and David Braddon-Mitchell (2004) have argued that this position is unmotivated, since the privilege of presentness comes apart from the indexicality of 'this moment'. I respond that no-futurists should treat 'x is real-as-of y' as a nonsymmetric relation. Then different moments are real-as-of different times. (...)
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  12. Emily Caddick Bourne & C. Bourne, The Fictional Future.
    Event synopsis: -What does it mean to claim that the future is open? -Are future contingent statements like "There will be a sea battle tomorrow" now true or false? -Is the claim that future contingents are now true or false compatible with the claim that the future is open? -What is the relation between future contingents and future ontology? -What metaphysical picture is required in order to make sense of the claim that the future is open? Multiple, branching futures? A (...)
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  13. Craig Callender, Time's Ontic Voltage.
    Philosophy of time, as practiced throughout the last hundred years, is both language- and existence-obsessed. It is language-obsessed in the sense that the primary venue for attacking questions about the nature of time—in sharp contrast to the primary venue for questions about space—has been philosophy of language. Although other areas of philosophy have long recognized that there is a yawning gap between language and the world, the message is spreading slowly in philosophy of time.[1] Since twentieth-century analytic philosophy as a (...)
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  14. R. Casati & G. Torrengo (2011). The Not so Incredible Shrinking Future. Analysis 71 (2):240-244.
    Quel bon vent, quel joli vent, ma vie m’appelle, ma vie m’attend French folk song 1. Presentists and Growing Block theorists appeal to ‘powerful intuitions’ when they defend their respective conceptions of time . Eternalists are prepared to go some length towards ‘reconciling’ the view from nowhen with at least some of these intuitions, or try to explain them away . Unaided intuitions may in fact underdetermine any particular metaphysical choice. One set of intuitions about time seems to have been (...)
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  15. Fabrice Correia & Sven Rosenkranz (2013). 9. Living on the Brink, or Welcome Back, Growing Block! Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 8:333.
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  16. Benjamin L. Curtis & Jon Robson (2016). A Critical Introduction to the Metaphysics of Time. Bloomsbury.
    What is the nature of time? Does it flow? Do the past and future exist? Drawing connections between historical and present-day questions, A Critical Introduction to the Metaphysics of Time provides an up-to-date guide to one of the most central and debated topics in contemporary metaphysics. Introducing the views and arguments of Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Newton and Leibniz, this accessible introduction covers the history of the philosophy of time from the Pre-Socratics to the beginning of the 20th Century. The (...)
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  17. Paul R. Daniels (forthcoming). What Happens to the Present When It Becomes the Past? In Jacob Held (ed.), Stephen King and Philosophy. Rowman and Littlefield
    In The Langoliers, passengers on an airline flight wake to find that they’ve mysteriously travelled a few minutes back in time… a few minutes behind everyone else. They find that the world still exists, after ‘the present’ has moved on, but only for a short duration before the Langoliers—the timekeepers of eternity—arrive to remove it permanently from existence. This story prompts two interesting questions: How should we understand the nature of time in The Langoliers? Could the nature of time in (...)
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  18. Sarah-Jane Anna Dempsey, The Dynamic Present: Not yet an Ontology of the Past.
    The notion of the dynamic present is a fundamental part of human life and culture. Despite this, over the past century it has fallen from favour within metaphysical temporal models with the rise of static time. In this thesis the four main areas of objection to the idea of passing time are investigated; they fall under the headings of logical, epistemic, semantic and physical. Available responses to these objections are surveyed, and it is concluded that these objections to passage, whilst (...)
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  19. Natalja Deng (2015). How A-Theoretic Deprivationists Should Respond to Lucretius. Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (3):417-432.
    What, if anything, makes death bad for the deceased themselves? Deprivationists hold that death is bad for the deceased iff it deprives them of intrinsic goods they would have enjoyed had they lived longer. This view faces the problem that birth too seems to deprive one of goods one would have enjoyed had one been born earlier, so that it too should be bad for one. There are two main approaches to the problem. In this paper, I explore the second (...)
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  20. Joseph Diekemper (2014). The Existence of the Past. Synthese 191 (6):1085-1104.
    My goal in this paper is to address what I call the ‘Incoherence’ objection to the growing universe theory of time. At the root of the objection is the thought that one cannot wed objective temporal becoming with the existence of a tenseless past—which is apparently what the growing universe theorist tries to do. To do so, however, is to attribute both dynamic and static aspects to time, and, given the mutual exclusivity of these two aspects—so the thought goes—incoherence results. (...)
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  21. Joseph Diekemper (2005). Presentism and Ontological Symmetry. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):223 – 240.
    In this paper, I argue that there is an inconsistency between two presentist doctrines: that of ontological symmetry and asymmetry of fixity. The former refers to the presentist belief that the past and future are equally unreal. The latter refers to the A-Theoretic intuition that the past is closed or actual, and the future is open or potential. My position in this paper is that the presentist is unable to account for the temporal asymmetry that is so fundamentally a part (...)
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  22. Phil Dowe (2009). Every Now and Then: A-Theory and Loops in Time. Journal of Philosophy 106 (12):641-665.
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  23. Steven M. Duncan, In Defense of Temporal Passage.
    In this paper, I endorse and defend the Common Sense View of Time (CSVT), i.e. Presentism plus the A-theory of time, by arguing for the objective reality of temporal passage.
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  24. Heather Dyke (2001). Review of Time, Tense, and Causation by M. Tooley. [REVIEW] International Philosophical Quarterly 39:100-101.
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  25. Heather Dyke & Adrian Bardon (eds.) (2013). A Companion to the Philosophy of Time. J. Wiley.
    _A Companion to the Philosophy of Time_ presents the broadest treatment of this subject yet; 32 specially commissioned articles - written by an international line-up of experts – provide an unparalleled reference work for students and specialists alike in this exciting field. The most comprehensive reference work on the philosophy of time currently available The first collection to tackle the historical development of the philosophy of time in addition to covering contemporary work Provides a tripartite approach in its organization, covering (...)
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  26. John Earman (2008). Reassessing the Prospects for a Growing Block Model of the Universe. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (2):135 – 164.
    Although C. D. Broad's notion of Becoming has received a fair amount of attention in the philosophy-of-time literature, there are no serious attempts to show how to replace the standard 'block' spacetime models by models that are more congenial to Broad's idea that the sum total of existence is continuously increased by Becoming or the coming into existence of events. In the Newtonian setting Broad-type models can be constructed in a cheating fashion by starting with a Newtonian block model, carving (...)
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  27. Joan Ferrarons-Llagostera (2012). Ontologia del temps: dos debats en la tradició analítica. Alia: Revista de Estudios Transversales 1:67-80.
    En aquest article es presenten dues teories sobre la naturalesa del temps i s’analitzen objeccions que s’hi han presentat els darrers anys en el marc de la filosofia analítica. La primera sosté que el passat i el futur no són reals, i presenta el problema de com es poden expressar proposicions veritables sobre temps no presents. D’acord amb la segona teoria, per contra, tots els temps —present, passat i futur— són igual de reals, però això sembla implicar que el futur (...)
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  28. Graeme A. Forbes (2016). The Growing Block’s Past Problems. Philosophical Studies 173 (3):699-709.
    The Growing-Block view of time has some problems with the past. It is committed to the existence of the past, but needs to say something about the difference between the past and present. I argue that we should resist Correia and Rosenkranz’ response to Braddon-Mitchell’s argument that the Growing-Block leads to scepticism about whether we are present. I consider an approach, similar to Peter Forrest, and show it is not so counter-intuitive as Braddon-Mitchell suggests and further show that it requires (...)
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  29. Graeme A. Forbes (2015). Accounting for Experiences as of Passage: Why Topology Isn’T Enough. Topoi 34 (1):187-194.
    Time appears to us to pass. Some philosophers think that we should account for these experiences by appeal to change in what there unrestrictedly is . I argue that such an appeal can only be the beginning of an account of passage. To show this, I consider a minimal type of view—a purely topological view—that attempts to account for experiences as of passage by an appeal to ontological change and topological features of the present. I argue that, if ontological change (...)
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  30. Peter Forrest (2006). Uniform Grounding of Truth and the Growing Block Theory: A Reply to Heathwood. Analysis 66 (290):161–163.
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  31. Peter Forrest (2004). The Real but Dead Past: A Reply to Braddon-Mitchell. Analysis 64 (4):358–362.
    In "How Do We Know It Is Now Now?" David Braddon-Mitchell (Analysis 2004) develops an objection to the thesis that the past is real but the future is not. He notes my response to this, namely that the past, although real, is lifeless and (a fortiori?) lacking in sentience. He argues, however, that this response, which I call 'the past is dead hypothesis', is not tenable if combined with 'special relativity'. My purpose in this reply is to argue that, on (...)
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  32. Tristan Garcia (2011). Un autre ordre du temps. Pour une intensité variable du maintenant. Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 4 (4):469-486.
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  33. Chris Heathwood (2005). The Real Price of the Dead Past: A Reply to Forrest and to Braddon-Mitchell. Analysis 65 (287):249–251.
    Non-presentist A-theories of time (such as the growing block theory and the moving spotlight theory) seem unacceptable because they invite skepticism about whether one exists in the present. To avoid this absurd implication, Peter Forrest appeals to the "Past is Dead hypothesis," according to which only beings in the objective present are conscious. We know we're present because we know we're conscious, and only present beings can be conscious. I argue that the dead past hypothesis undercuts the main reason for (...)
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  34. Baptiste Le Bihan (2014). No-Futurism and Metaphysical Contingentism. Axiomathes 24 (4):483-497.
    According to no-futurism, past and present entities are real, but future ones are not. This view faces a skeptical challenge (Bourne 2002, 2006, Braddon-Mitchell, 2004): if no-futurism is true, how do you know you are present? I shall propose a new skeptical argument based on the physical possibility of Gödelian worlds (1949). This argument shows that a no-futurist has to endorse a metaphysical contingentist reading of no-futurism, the view that no-futurism is contingently true. But then, the no-futurist has to face (...)
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  35. Maurizio Mangiagalli (2009). Il Tempo: Fenomenologia E Metafisica. Aracne.
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  36. Ned Markosian (2010). Time. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Discussions of the nature of time, and of various issues related to time, have always featured prominently in philosophy, but they have been especially important since the beginning of the 20th Century. This article contains a brief overview of some of the main topics in the philosophy of time — Fatalism; Reductionism and Platonism with respect to time; the topology of time; McTaggart's arguments; The A Theory and The B Theory; Presentism, Eternalism, and The Growing Universe Theory; time travel; and (...)
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  37. Storrs McCall (1994). A Model of the Universe. Clarendon Press.
    Storrs McCall presents an original philosophical theory of the nature of the universe based on a striking new model of its space-time structure. He shows that this theory can illuminate a wide variety of hitherto unresolved philosophical problems. These include: the direction and flow of time; the nature of scientific laws; the interpretation of quantum mechanics; the definition of probability; counterfactual semantics; and the notions of identity, essential properties, deliberation, decision, and free will. A particular instance of the explanatory powers (...)
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  38. Kris McDaniel, John M. E. Mctaggart. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy comprehensive article on J.M.E. MacTaggart, with special focus on his methodology for philosophy, his metaphysical system, and his ethics.
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  39. D. H. Mellor (1998). Time, Tense, and Causation by Michael Tooley. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997, XVI + 399 Pp. [REVIEW] Philosophy 73 (4):629-645.
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  40. Trenton Merricks (2006). 4. Goodbye Growing Block. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 2:103.
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  41. Kristie Miller (forthcoming). A Taxonomy of Views About Time in Buddhist and Western Philosophy. Philosophy East and West.
    We find the claim that time is not real in both western and eastern philosophical traditions. In what follows I will call the view that time does not exist temporal error theory. Temporal error theory was made famous in western analytic philosophy in the early 1900s by John McTaggart (1908) and, in much the same tradition, temporal error theory was subsequently defended by Gödel (1949). The idea that time is not real, however, stretches back much further than that. It is (...)
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  42. Kristie Miller (2013). The Growing Block, Presentism, and Eternalism. In Heather Dyke & Adrian Bardon (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Time. Wiley-Blackwell
    This paper has three main sections. The first section provides a general characterisation of presentism, eternalism and growing blockism. It presents a pair of core, defining claims that jointly capture each of these three views. This makes clear the respects in which the different views agree, and the respects in which they disagree, about the nature of time. The second section takes these characterisations and considers whether we really do have three distinct views, or whether defenders of these views are (...)
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  43. Daniel Nolan (1999). Michael Tooley, Time, Tense and Causation. Erkenntnis 50 (1):137-144.
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  44. Francesco Orilia (2012). Filosofia Del Tempo: Il Dibattito Contemporaneo. Carocci.
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  45. Jon Robson (2014). A-Time to Die: A Growing Block Account of the Evil of Death. Philosophia 42 (4):911-925.
    In this paper I argue that the growing block theory of time has rather surprising, and hitherto unexplored, explanatory benefits when it comes to certain enduring philosophical puzzles concerning death. In particular, I claim the growing block theorist has readily available and convincing answers to the following questions: Why is it an evil to be dead but not an evil to be not yet born? How can death be an evil for the dead if they no longer exist to suffer (...)
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  46. Jeffrey Sanford Russell (2015). Temporary Safety Hazards. Noûs 50 (3):n/a-n/a.
    The Epistemic Objection says that certain theories of time imply that it is impossible to know which time is absolutely present. Standard presentations of the Epistemic Objection are elliptical—and some of the most natural premises one might fill in to complete the argument end up leading to radical skepticism. But there is a way of filling in the details which avoids this problem, using epistemic safety. The new version has two interesting upshots. First, while Ross Cameron alleges that the Epistemic (...)
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  47. David Sanson, Once Present, Now Past.
    If reality is temporary, then reality changes, and if reality changes, the past has explanatory work to do, and it cannot do that work unless it is no longer real. This tells against the Moving Now Theory, the Growing Block Theory, and any form of Presentism that attempts to understand the past in terms of the present, including Tensed Properties Presentism and Tensed Facts Presentism. It tells in favor of a form Presentism that allows us to appeal to unreal past (...)
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  48. Matthew H. Slater (2005). The Necessity of Time Travel (On Pain of Indeterminacy). The Monist 88 (3):362-369.
    There is a tension between the “growing block” account of time (closed past, open future) and the possibility of backwards time travel. If Tim the time traveler can someday travel backwards through time, then he has (in a certain sense) already been. He might discover this fact before (in another sense) he goes. Hence a dilemma: it seems that either Tim’s future is determined in an odd way or cases of (temporary) ontic indeterminate identity are possible. Either Tim cannot avoid (...)
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  49. Quentin Smith (1988). The Logical Structure of the Debate About McTaggart's Paradox. Philosophy Research Archives 14:371-379.
    This short article aims to illustrate the mutually question-begging arguments that are often presented in debates between opponents and defenderss of McTaggart’s “proof” that A-properties (pastness, presentness and futurity) are logically incoherent. A sample of such arguments is taken from a recent debate between L. Nathan Oaklander (a defender of McTaggart) and myself (an opponent of McTaggart) and a method of escaping the impasse that is often reached in such debates is suggested.
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  50. Jonathan Tallant (2011). There's No Future in No-Futurism. Erkenntnis 74 (1):37-52.
    In two recent papers Button (Analysis 66:130–135, 2006, Analysis 67:325–332, 2007) has developed a particular view of time that he calls no-futurism. He defends his no-futurism against a sceptical problem that has been raised (by e.g. Bourne in Aust J Phil 80:359–371, 2002) for a similar growing block view—that of Tooley (Time, tense, and causation, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997). If Button is right, then we have an important third option available to us: a half-way house between presentism and eternalism. If, (...)
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