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Temporal Ontology

Edited by Sam Baron (University of Western Australia)
Assistant editor: James Darcy (University of Virginia)
About this topic
Summary Temporal ontology is home to two central issues in the philosophy of time. The first issue concerns the ontological status of the past, present and future. The debate here is between liberal accounts of temporal ontology, according to which past, present and future entities all exist and conservative accounts of temporal ontology, which deny that past, present and future entities all exist. Liberal approaches to temporal ontology are typically called eternalist views about time, and are contrasted with the most severe form of conservativeness about temporal ontology: presentism, according to which only present entities exist. The second broad issue in the category of temporal ontology concerns the relationship between the future and agency. If, as eternalists maintain, the future exists, then arguably all of the facts about the future are already setltled. But if the facts about the future are already settled, then the future is closed. If, however, the future is closed, then it would seem that there is nothing we can do now to alter what is going to happen. The central issue facing eternalism from agency then is how to avoid descending into fatalism.
Key works The locus classicus for contemporary presentism is Bigelow 1996. Bourne 2006 is a book-length defense of presentism, which is a must-read on the topic. Putnam 1967 presents the chief motivation for eternalism, namely that it is implied by the special theory of relativity, an issue that comes to the fore in Dieks 2006. Mellor 1998 is an important exposition and defense of an eternalist model of time, whereas Tooley 2000 is an attempt to develop a middle-ground position between presentism and eternalism, according to which the past and present exist but the future does not. Anscombe 1956 is a crucial paper on Aristotlean arguments in favour of fatalism, and Barnes & Cameron 2009 and Barnes & Cameron 2011 represent the state of the art on temporal ontology and fatalism. Markosian 1995 forges a link between the open future and indeterminism about the laws of nature. Determinism about the laws of nature is usefully discussed in Churchland 1981 and Unger 1977.
Introductions Encyclopedia articles include Markosian 2010, Rice 2008, Hoefer 2008 and Le Poidevin 2008.
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  1. Adriënne van den Bogaard (1999). Past Measurement and Future Prediction. In Margaret Morrison & Mary Morgan (eds.), Models as Mediators.
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  2. C. Bourne (2007). Review: Truth and the Past. [REVIEW] Mind 116 (464):1110-1114.
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  3. Emile Boutroux (1921). The Immediate Future. International Journal of Ethics 31 (4):370-380.
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  4. R. D. Bradley (1962). Determinism or Indeterminism in Microphysics. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 13 (51):193-215.
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  5. Franz Brentano (1988). Philosophical Investigations on Space, Time, and the Continuum. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    Franz Brentano is recognised as one of the most important philosophers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This work, first published in English in 1988, besides being an important contribution to metaphysics in its own right, has considerable historical importance through its influence on Husserl’s views on internal time consciousness. The work is preceded by a long introduction by Stephan Körner in collaboration with Brentano’s literary executor Roderick Chisholm. It is translated by Barry Smith.
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  6. Carlo Brosio (2013). No Past, No Future Appunti Per Una Fenomenologia Del Presente. Societ〠Degli Individui 46:92-104.
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  7. Alan Bullock (1982). The Past and the Future. Upa.
    Alan Bullock demonstrates the continuity of mankind's thought and concerns from the historical past, through the troubled and often confusing present into the almost invisible future. This continuum offers us a basis for achieving understanding and perspective, for relating past, present and future. Without seeing this relationship, the moment of our lifetime must seem isolated and meaningless. Co-pubished with the Aspen Institute.
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  8. John P. Burgess (1978). The Unreal Future. Theoria 44 (3):157-179.
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  9. Steven Cahn (1964). Fatalistic Arguments. Journal of Philosophy 61 (10):295-305.
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  10. Steven M. Cahn (2009). Does God Know the Future? In Exploring Philosophy of Religion: An Introductory Anthology. Oxford University Press.
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  11. Thomas Cassilly & George Bernstein (1991). Power of the Past, Glimpse of a Future. Inquiry 7 (2):17-19.
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  12. Vatican City (1968). Thomism and Modern Science: Relationships Past, Present, and Future. The Thomist 32:67-83.
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  13. Michael Clark (1969). Discourse About the Future: Michael Clark. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 3:169-190.
    While philosophers feel relatively comfortable about talking of the present and the past, some of them feel uncomfortable about talking in just the same way of future events. They feel that, in general, discourse about the future differs significantly from discourse about the past and present, and that these differences reflect a logical asymmetry between the past and future beyond the merely defining fact that the future succeeds, and the past precedes, the present time. The problem is: how can we (...)
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  14. L. Colley (2005). Introduction: Some Difficulties of Empire--Past, Present, and Future. Common Knowledge 11 (2):198-214.
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  15. Karen Coyle (1999). Growing Our Communications Future. Journal of Information Ethics 8 (1):72-77.
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  16. Robert A. Crouch (1998). Betwixt and Between: The Past and Future of Intersexuality. Journal of Clinical Ethics 9 (4):372.
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  17. Charles B. Daniels (1992). Having a Future. Dialogue 31 (04):661-.
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  18. Mladen Domazet (2006). Einsteinova sinkronizacija i konvencionalnost istovremenosti. Prolegomena 5 (1):53-64.
    Unatoč naslovu koji pokriva iznimno opširno područje, članak se usredotočuje na blisko pitanje da li Specijalna teorija relativnosti nužno zagovara ukidanje ontološke razlike između prošlih i budućih događaja, između prošlosti i budućnosti općenito. Izraženo žargonom koji uvodi Stein: jesmo li u okviru STR prinuđeni birati isključivo između ‘solipsizma’ i ‘determinizma’? Posebice će biti riječi o ulozi koju konvencionalnost istovremenosti u STR ima u pokušaju odgovora na ovo pitanje. Standardni argumenti pozivaju se na relativnost istovremenosti, tvrdnju da STR negira postojanje univerzalne (...)
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  19. Mauro Dorato (1993). The Reality of the Future: Spacetime Physics and the Objectivity of Temporal Becoming. Dissertation, The Johns Hopkins University
    Temporal becoming is usually considered the essence of the concept of time. But in our century most physicists and philosophers have defended the view that becoming is dependent on the existence of conscious beings and that there is no ontological difference between past and future. I evaluate these related claims both in light of their conceptual implications and by bringing to bear our best spacetime theories. ;Since a mind-independent becoming should be grounded in an ontological, non-epistemic asymmetry between past and (...)
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  20. William Edmundson, Liberating the Future From the Past? Liberating the Past From the Future?
    He has two antagonists: the first pushes him from behind, from his origin. The second blocks his road ahead. He struggles with both. Actually the first supports him in his struggle with the second, for the first wants to push him forward; and in the same way the second supports him in his struggle with the first, for the second of course forces him back. But it is only theoretically so. For it is not only the two protagonists who are (...)
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  21. Jan Faye (1993). Is the Future Really Real? American Philosophical Quarterly 30 (3):259 - 269.
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  22. Harvey M. Friedman, Foundations of Mathematics: Past, Present, and Future.
    It turns out, time and time again, in order to make serious progress in f.o.m., we need to take actual reasoning and actual development into account at precisely the proper level. If we take these into account too much, then we are faced with information that is just too difficult to create an exact science around - at least at a given state of development of f.o.m. And if we take these into account too little, our findings will not have (...)
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  23. Shan Gao, The Basis of Indeterminism.
    We show that the motion of particles may be essentially discontinuous and random.
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  24. Samuel Gorovitz (2005). The Past, Present and Future of Human Nature. In Arthur W. Galston & Christiana Z. Peppard (eds.), Expanding Horizons in Bioethics. Springer. 3--18.
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  25. Bernd Graefrath (2008). To Know the Past One Must First Know the Future: Raymond Smullyan and the Mysteries of Retrograde Analysis. In Benjamin Hale (ed.), Philosophy Looks at Chess. Open Court Press. 1--12.
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  26. W. Matthews Grant (2000). Counterfactuals of Freedom, Future Contingents, and the Grounding Objection to Middle Knowledge. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 74:307-323.
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  27. Nicolás Grimaldi (2012). Tres instancias originarias de la relación: Vida, conciencia, tiempo. Giornale di Metafisica 1.
    The fundamental thesis consists in the assumption of the primary connexion between desire, time, and life. A phenomenological approach to our experience of time shows us the born disposition that allows us to grasp the sense of past, present and future as such. The key of these three dimensions lies in the future, because the past is a pure “becoming matter” of the tendency or radical desire of the reality, always distant of a perfect fulfilling, and not able either to (...)
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  28. A. Grünbaum (1969). Are Physical Events Themselves Transiently Past, Present and Future? A Reply to H. A. C. Dobbs. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 20 (2):145-153.
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  29. Julia H. Gulliver (1894). The Ethical Implications of Determinism. Philosophical Review 3 (1):62-67.
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  30. Ernest Guy (1945). The French Colonies, Past and Future. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 20 (1):137-138.
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  31. Jürgen Habermas (2007). Dispute on the Past and Future of International Law. The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 13:31-39.
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  32. Paul Helm (1993). The Future. International Studies in Philosophy 25 (1):93-93.
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  33. Stephen Herrero (1970). Man and the Grizzly Bear (Present, Past, but Future?). BioScience 20 (21):1148-1153.
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  34. Jaakko Hintikka (1964). The Once and Future Sea Fight: Aristotle's Discussion of Future Contingents in de Interpretatione IX. Philosophical Review 73 (4):461-492.
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  35. Brian Hopkins (2004). Causality and Development Past, Present and Future. In Alberto Peruzzi (ed.), Mind and Causality. John Benjamins. 55--1.
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  36. Louis E. Howe (1998). The Designated Mourner : The Future of Public Administration's Past. In Barbara L. Neuby (ed.), Relevancy of the Social Sciences in the Next Millennium. The State University of West Georgia.
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  37. Ferenc Huoranszki (2002). Fate, Freedom and Contingency. Acta Analytica 17 (1):79-102.
    Argument for fatalism attempts to prove that free choice is a logical or conceptual impossibility. The paper argues that the first two premises of the argument are sound: propositions are either true or false and they have their truth-value eternally. But the claim that from the fatalistic premises with the introduction of some innocent further premise dire consequences follow as regards to the possibility of free choice is false. The introduced premise, which establishes the connection between the first two premises (...)
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  38. Barry L. Johnson, William B. Richardson & Teresa J. Naimo (1995). Past, Present, and Future Concepts in Large River Ecology. BioScience 45 (3):134-141.
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  39. William Junker (2003). Past's Weight, Future's Promise: Reading. Philosophy and Literature 27 (2).
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  40. Jerome G. Kerwin (1944). Past Errors and Future Possibilities. Modern Schoolman 21 (4):216-224.
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  41. Gary Kitchen (1994). Mythical Past, Elusive Future. [REVIEW] Radical Philosophy 66.
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  42. Jacob Klapwijk (1987). Reformational Philosophy on the Boundary Between the Past and the Future. Philosophia Reformata 52 (52):101-134.
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  43. C. Klochko (2012). Past, Present, and Future. The Pharos of Alpha Omega Alpha-Honor Medical Society. Alpha Omega Alpha 75 (3):34.
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  44. M. Knapp (1908). Shoobridge-Waldstein, Herculaneum, Past, Present and Future. Classical World: A Quarterly Journal on Antiquity 2:157.
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  45. B. Kolltveit (forthcoming). Past, Present and Future of the North European Ferries. Veritas: Revista de Filosofia da PUCRS.
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  46. Nikolas Kompridis (2005). Disclosing Possibility: The Past and Future of Critical Theory. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 13 (3):325 – 351.
    In this paper I indicate the reasons why critical theory needs an alternative conception of critique, and then I sketch out what such an alternative should be. The conception of critique I develop involves a time-responsive redisclosure of the world capable of disclosing new or previously unnoticed possibilities, possibilities in light of which agents can change their self-understanding and their practices, and change their orientation to the future and the past.
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  47. Wilhelm Krull (2008). Review: Past–Present–Future: The ETH Zurich. [REVIEW] Minerva 46 (2):271-274.
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  48. Jean Largeault (1986). Les futurs contingents : déterminisme et prescience. Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 91 (4):549 - 559.
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  49. Daniel J. Leahy (1952). A Pragmatic Theory of the Past, Present, and Future. Review of Metaphysics 6:369.
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  50. Arthur J. Lewis (1981). Education: Bridging Past, Present, and Future. Journal of Thought 16 (3):61-71.
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