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The Open Future

Edited by Sam Baron (University of Western Australia)
Assistant editor: James Darcy (University of Otago)
About this topic
Summary The open future category deals with issues pertaining to the fixity of the future. Are propositions about the future true now? Or do such propositions lack a truth-value? These questions connect up to important debates surrounding free-will and deliberation. The open future resides within the temporal ontology category as it has been argued that the openness of the future hangs on the existence of the future. Accordingly, positions such as presentism and the growing block theory are touted as better according with the openness of the future because of their (comparatively) thrifty ontologies.
Key works

Anscombe 1956 contains an early contemporary examination of Aristotle’s problem of future contingents, while MacFarlane 2003 offers a recent and influential solution to the problem based on a context of assessment. Dummett 1964 focuses on an argument concerning the asymmetry between between past and future, and contains an argument against fatalism. Belnap 1992 argues for a blend of relativity and indeterminism, and Belnap & Green 1994 argues for an open future as rooted in a branching structure of time without a distinguished ‘actual’ future branch. Barnes & Cameron 2009 aim to show that the open future is compatible with determinism about the laws of nature as well as an unrestricted principle of bivalence.

Introductions See the collected papers in Correia & Iacona 2013. See also Øhrstrøm & Hasle 2011.
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  1. M. Abraham, D. M. Gabbay & U. Schild (2012). Contrary to Time Conditionals in Talmudic Logic. Artificial Intelligence and Law 20 (2):145-179.
    We consider conditionals of the form A ⇒ B where A depends on the future and B on the present and past. We examine models for such conditional arising in Talmudic legal cases. We call such conditionals contrary to time conditionals.Three main aspects will be investigated: Inverse causality from future to past, where a future condition can influence a legal event in the past (this is a man made causality).Comparison with similar features in modern law.New types of temporal logics arising (...)
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  2. 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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  3. Rogers Albritton (1957). Present Truth and Future Contingency. Philosophical Review 66 (1):29-46.
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  4. G. E. M. Anscombe (1956). Aristotle and the Sea Battle. Mind 65 (257):1-15.
  5. Benjamin H. Arbour (2013). Future Freedom and the Fixity of Truth: Closing the Road to Limited Foreknowledge Open Theism. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 73 (3):189-207.
    Unlike versions of open theism that appeal to the alethic openness of the future, defenders of limited foreknowledge open theism (hereafter LFOT) affirm that some propositions concerning future contingents are presently true. Thus, there exist truths that are unknown to God, so God is not omniscient simpliciter. LFOT requires modal definitions of divine omniscience such that God knows all truths that are logically knowable. Defenders of LFOT have yet to provide an adequate response to Richard Purtill’s argument that fatalism logically (...)
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  6. Miloš Arsenijević (2002). Determinism, Indeterminism and the Flow of Time. Erkenntnis 56 (2):123 - 150.
    A set of axioms implicitly defining the standard, though not instant-based but interval-based, time topology is used as a basis to build a temporal modal logic of events. The whole apparatus contains neither past, present, and future operators nor indexicals, but only B-series relations and modal operators interpreted in the standard way. Determinism and indeterminism are then introduced into the logic of events via corresponding axioms. It is shown that, if determinism and indeterminism are understood in accordance with their core (...)
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  7. Marcus Arvan (2013). A New Theory of Free Will. Philosophical Forum 44 (1):1-48.
    This paper shows that several live philosophical and scientific hypotheses – including the holographic principle and multiverse theory in quantum physics, and eternalism and mind-body dualism in philosophy – jointly imply an audacious new theory of free will. This new theory, "Libertarian Compatibilism", holds that the physical world is an eternally existing array of two-dimensional information – a vast number of possible pasts, presents, and futures – and the mind a nonphysical entity or set of properties that "read" that physical (...)
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  8. Mark Balaguer (2014). Anti‐Metaphysicalism, Necessity, and Temporal Ontology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (1).
    This paper argues for a certain kind of anti-metaphysicalism about the temporal ontology debate, i.e., the debate between presentists and eternalists over the existence of past and future objects. Three different kinds of anti-metaphysicalism are defined—namely, non-factualism, physical-empiricism, and trivialism. The paper argues for the disjunction of these three views. It is then argued that trivialism is false, so that either non-factualism or physical-empiricism is true. Finally, the paper ends with a discussion of whether we should endorse non-factualism or physical-empiricism. (...)
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  9. Stephen J. Barker (1998). Predetermination and Tense Probabilism. Analysis 58 (4):290–296.
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  10. Elizabeth Barnes & Ross Cameron (2009). The Open Future: Bivalence, Determinism and Ontology. Philosophical Studies 146 (2):291 - 309.
    In this paper we aim to disentangle the thesis that the future is open from theses that often get associated or even conflated with it. In particular, we argue that the open future thesis is compatible with both the unrestricted principle of bivalence and determinism with respect to the laws of nature. We also argue that whether or not the future (and indeed the past) is open has no consequences as to the existence of (past and) future ontology.
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  11. Elizabeth Barnes & Ross P. Cameron (2011). Back to the Open Future1. Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1):1-26.
    Many of us are tempted by the thought that the future is open, whereas the past is not. The future might unfold one way, or it might unfold another; but the past, having occurred, is now settled. In previous work we presented an account of what openness consists in: roughly, that the openness of the future is a matter of it being metaphysically indeterminate how things will turn out to be. We were previously concerned merely with presenting the view and (...)
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  12. Jc Beall (2012). Future Contradictions. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):547-557.
    A common and much-explored thought is ?ukasiewicz's idea that the future is ?indeterminate??i.e., ?gappy? with respect to some claims?and that such indeterminacy bleeds back into the present in the form of gappy ?future contingent? claims. What is uncommon, and to my knowledge unexplored, is the dual idea of an overdeterminate future?one which is ?glutty? with respect to some claims. While the direct dual, with future gluts bleeding back into the present, is worth noting, my central aim is simply to sketch (...)
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  13. Nuel Belnap (1992). Branching Space-Time. Synthese 92 (3):385 - 434.
    Branching space-time is a simple blend of relativity and indeterminism. Postulates and definitions rigorously describe the causal order relation between possible point events. The key postulate is a version of everything has a causal origin; key defined terms include history and choice point. Some elementary but helpful facts are proved. Application is made to the status of causal contemporaries of indeterministic events, to how splitting of histories happens, to indeterminism without choice, and to Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen distant correlations.
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  14. Nuel Belnap & Mitchell Green (1994). Indeterminism and the Thin Red Line. Philosophical Perspectives 8:365 - 388.
  15. Jiri Benovsky (2013). Branching and (in)Determinism. Philosophical Papers 42 (2):151-173.
    At a first glance, and even at a second one, it seems that if time is linear the threat of determinism is more severe than if time is branching, since in the latter case the future is open in a way it is not in the former one where, so to speak, there exists only one branch – one future. In this paper, I want to give a 'third glance' at this claim. I acknowledge that such a claim is intuitive (...)
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  16. Corine Besson & Anandi Hattiangadi (2014). The Open Future, Bivalence and Assertion. Philosophical Studies 167 (2):251-271.
    It is highly now intuitive that the future is open and the past is closed now—whereas it is unsettled whether there will be a fourth world war, it is settled that there was a first. Recently, it has become increasingly popular to claim that the intuitive openness of the future implies that contingent statements about the future, such as ‘There will be a sea battle tomorrow,’ are non-bivalent (neither true nor false). In this paper, we argue that the non-bivalence of (...)
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  17. Michael Blome-Tillman, Reproductive Cloning, Genetic Engineering and the Autonomy of the Child: The Moral Agent and the Open Future.
  18. Andrea Bonomi & Fabio Del Prete, Evaluating Future-Tensed Sentences in Changing Contexts.
    According to the actualist view, what is essential in the truth conditions of a future-tensed sentence of type ‘it will be the case that ϕ’ is the reference to the unique course of events that will become actual. On the other hand, the modal view has it that the truth conditions of such a sentence require the truth of ϕ being already “settled” at the time of utterance, where “being settled” is defined by universal quantification over a domain of courses (...)
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  19. Andrea Borghini & Giuliano Torrengo, The Metaphysics of the Thin Red Line.
    There seems to be a minimal core that every theory wishing to accommodate the intuition that the future is open must contain: a denial of physical determinism (i.e. the thesis that what future states the universe will be in is implied by what states it has been in), and a denial of strong fatalism (i.e. the thesis that, at every time, what will subsequently be the case is metaphysically necessary).1 Those two requirements are often associated with the idea of an (...)
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  20. Craig Bourne (2004). Future Contingents, Non-Contradiction, and the Law of Excluded Middle Muddle. Analysis 64 (2):122–128.
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  21. 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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  22. Berit Brogaard (2008). Sea Battle Semantics. Philosophical Quarterly 58 (231):326–335.
    The assumption that the future is open makes well known problems for traditional semantics. According to a commonly held intuition, today's occurrence of the sentence 'There will be a sea battle tomorrow', while truth-valueless today, will have a determinate truth-value by tomorrow night. Yet given traditional semantics, sentences that are truth-valueless now cannot later 'become' true. Relativistic semantics has been claimed to do a better job of accommodating intuitions about future contingents than non-relativistic semantics does. However, intuitions about future contingents (...)
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  23. Patrick Burke (2010). The Memory of the Promise: Martin Matuštík's Museum of an Open Future. Journal of Speculative Philosophy 23 (4):pp. 340-349.
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  24. Ross Cameron (2011). Truthmaking for Presentists. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 6:55-100.
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  25. Michael Clark (1970). Discourse About the Future. In G. Vesey (ed.), Knowledge and Necessity. Macmillan. 169-190.
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  26. Rob Clifton & Mark Hogarth (1995). The Definability of Objective Becoming in Minkowski Spacetime. Synthese 103 (3):355 - 387.
    In his recent article On Relativity Theory and Openness of the Future (1991), Howard Stein proves not only that one can define an objective becoming relation in Minkowski spacetime, but that there is only one possible definition available if one accepts certain natural assumptions about what it is for becoming to occur and for it to be objective. Stein uses the definition supplied by his proof to refute an argument due to Rietdijk (1966, 1976), Putnam (1967) and Maxwell (1985, 1988) (...)
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  27. Fabrice Correia & Andrea Iacona (eds.) (2013). Around the Tree: Semantic and Metaphysical Issues Concerning Branching and the Open Future. Springer.
    Over the past few years, the tree model of time has been widely employed to deal with issues concerning the semantics of tensed discourse. The thought that has motivated its adoption is that the most plausible way to make sense of indeterminism is to conceive of future possibilities as branches that depart from a common trunk, constituted by the past and the present. However, the thought still needs to be further articulated and defended, and several important questions remain open, such (...)
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  28. William Lane Craig & David P. Hunt (2013). Perils of the Open Road. Faith and Philosophy 30 (1):49-71.
    Open theists deny that God knows future contingents. Most open theists justify this denial by adopting the position that there are no future contingent truths to be known. In this paper we examine some of the arguments put forward for this position in two recent articles in this journal, one by Dale Tuggy and one by Alan Rhoda, Gregory Boyd, and Thomas Belt. The arguments concern time, modality, and the semantics of ‘will’ statements. We explain why we find none of (...)
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  29. Paul R. Daniels (2012). Back to the Present: Defending Presentist Time Travel. Disputatio 4 (33):469 - 484.
    Here I defend the compatibility of presentism and time travel against a few objections. Keller and Nelson argue that, if presentism is at all plausible, presentism and time travel are as compatible as eternalism and time travel. But Miller and Sider are not convinced. I reply that for their concerns to have merit, Miller and Sider must assume presentists are committed to positions they need not be; I explain why presentists are not so committed and, in the process, defend Keller (...)
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  30. K. DeRose (1998). Simple 'Might's, Indicative Possibilities and the Open Future. Philosophical Quarterly 48 (190):67-82.
    are ambiguous. In the mouth of someone who cannot remember whether it was Michael, or rather someone else, who was top scorer, (1) can express the epistemic possibility that Michael led the league in scoring. But from someone who knows that Michael did not even play last season, but is wondering what would have happened if he had, (1) means something quite different. Now where it has this quite different meaning, (...) (1) may still turn out to be the expression of some epistemic possibility. Perhaps where (1) does not express the epistemic possibility of ‘Michael led the league in scoring’, it expresses the epistemic possibility of ‘Michael would have led the league in scoring’. Analysis of this ‘would have’ statement, together with an exploration of the suspicion that the ‘might have’ statement is ambiguous between these two epistemic possibilities, will have to await another occasion. (Although a first stab at the ‘would have’ statement’s analysis is this: for some contextually relevant p, if p were true, then Michael would have led the league in scoring.) The important point for present purposes is that (1) is ambiguous between an expression of the epistemic possibility of ‘Michael led the league in scoring’ and some quite different reading. (shrink)
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  31. Ezio Di Nucci (2012). Knowing Future Contingents. Logos and Episteme 3 (1):43-50.
    This paper argues that we know the future by applying a recent solution of the problem of future contingents to knowledge attributions about the future. MacFarlane has put forward a version of assessment-context relativism that enables us to assign a truth value 'true' (or 'false') to future contingents such as There Will Be A Sea Battle Tomorrow. Here I argue that the same solution can be applied to knowledge attributions about the future by dismissing three disanalogies between the case of (...)
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  32. Joseph Diekemper (2005). Logical Determinateness, Fixity, and the Symmetry of Time. Philosophical Papers 34 (1):1-24.
    Abstract In this paper, I investigate the purported dilemma between a symmetrical conception of time and the denial of what I call Universal Logical Determinateness (ULD). According to the dilemma, the timeless and universal application of logical laws to all propositions necessitates either the view that the past and future are both open, or that they are both closed. My investigation proceeds by way of an assessment of Taylor's argument for fatalism, then of Dummet's presentation and refutation of the fatalistic (...)
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  33. 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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  34. Joseph Diekemper (2004). Temporal Necessity and Logical Fatalism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 104 (3):287–294.
    I begin by briefly mentioning two different logical fatalistic argument types: one from temporal necessity, and one from antecedent truth value. It is commonly thought that the latter of these involves a simple modal fallacy and is easily refuted, and that the former poses the real threat to an open future. I question the conventional wisdom regarding these argument types, and present an analysis of temporal necessity that suggests the anti-fatalist might be better off shifting her argumentative strategy. Specifically, two (...)
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  35. D. Dieks (1988). Special Relativity and the Flow of Time. Philosophy of Science 55 (3):456-460.
    N. Maxwell (1985) has claimed that special relativity and "probabilism" are incompatible; "probabilism" he defines as the doctrine that "the universe is such that, at any instant, there is only one past but many alternative possible futures". Thus defined, the doctrine is evidently prerelativistic as it depends on the notion of a universal instant of the universe. In this note I show, however, that there is a straightforward relativistic generalization, and that therefore Maxwell's conclusion that the special theory of relativity (...)
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  36. Michael Dummett (1964). Bringing About the Past. Philosophical Review 73 (3):338-359.
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  37. Antony Eagle, The Open Future.
    Consider also what I shall call the asymmetry of openness: the obscure contrast we draw between the ‘open future’ and the ‘fixed past.’ We tend to regard the future as a multitude of alternative possibilities, a ‘garden of forking paths’ in Borges’ phrase, whereas we regard the past as a unique, settled, immutable actuality. These descriptions scarcely wear their meaning on their sleeves, yet do seem to capture some genuine and important difference between past and future. What can it be? (...)
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  38. Matt Farr (2012). On A- and B-Theoretic Elements of Branching Spacetimes. Synthese 188 (1):85-116.
    This paper assesses branching spacetime theories in light of metaphysical considerations concerning time. I present the A, B, and C series in terms of the temporal structure they impose on sets of events, and raise problems for two elements of extant branching spacetime theories—McCall’s ‘branch attrition’, and the ‘no backward branching’ feature of Belnap’s ‘branching space-time’—in terms of their respective A- and B-theoretic nature. I argue that McCall’s presentation of branch attrition can only be coherently formulated on a model with (...)
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  39. Joel Feinberg (2007). The Child's Right to an Open Future. In Randall R. Curren (ed.), Philosophy of Education: An Anthology. Blackwell Pub..
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  40. Graeme Forbes (1996). Logic, Logical Form, and the Open Future. Philosophical Perspectives 10:73 - 92.
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  41. Jeffrey Green & Katherin Rogers (2012). Time, Foreknowledge, and Alternative Possibilities. Religious Studies 48 (2):151 - 164.
    In this article we respond to arguments from William Hasker and David Kyle Johnson that free will is incompatible with both divine foreknowledge and eternalism (what we refer to as isotemporalism). In particular, we sketch an Anselmian account of time and freedom, briefly defend the view against Hasker's critique, and then respond in more depth to Johnson's claim that Anselmian freedom is incompatible with free will because it entails that our actions are 'ontologically necessary'. In defending Anselmian freedom we argue (...)
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  42. Patrick Greenough (2008). Indeterminate Truth. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 32 (1):213-241.
    In §2-4, I survey three extant ways of making sense of indeterminate truth and find each of them wanting. All the later sections of the paper are concerned with showing that the most promising way of making sense of indeterminate truth is via either a theory of truthmaker gaps or via a theory of truthmaking gaps. The first intimations of a truthmaker–truthmaking gap theory of indeterminacy are to be found in Quine (1981). In §5, we see how Quine proposes to (...)
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  43. James Harrington (2007). Special Relativity and the Future: A Defense of the Point Present. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 39 (1):82-101.
    In this paper, I defend a theory of local temporality, sometimes referred to as a point-present theory. This theory has the great advantage that it allows for the possibility of an open future without requiring any alterations to our standard understanding of special relativity. Such theories, however, have regularly been rejected out of hand as metaphysically incoherent. After surveying the debate, I argue that such a transformation of temporal concepts (i) is suggested by the indexical semantics of tense in a (...)
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  44. Allan Hazlett (2011). How the Past Depends on the Future. Ratio 24 (2):167-175.
    It is often said that, according to common sense, there is a fundamental asymmetry between the past and future; namely, that the past is closed and the future is open. Eternalism in the ontology of time is often seen as conflicting with common sense on this point. Here I argue against the claim that common sense is committed to this fundamental asymmetry between the past and the future, on the grounds that facts about the past often depend on facts about (...)
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  45. Chris Heathwood (2007). On What Will Be: Reply to Westphal. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis 67 (1):137 - 142.
    Jonathan Westphal's recent paper attempts to reconcile the view that propositions about the future can be true or false now with the idea that the future cannot now be real. I attempt to show that Westphal's proposal is either unoriginal or unsatisfying. It is unoriginal if it is just the well-known eternalist solution. It is unsatisfying if it is instead making use of a peculiar, tensed truthmaking principle.
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  46. Siegfried Heimann (ed.) (2009). Ossip K. Flechtheim, 100 Jahre. Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands.
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  47. Eli Hirsch (2006). 5. Rashi's View of the Open Future: Indeterminateness and Bivalence1. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 2:111.
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  48. Andreas Hüttemann (2014). Scientific Practice and Necessary Connections. Theoria 79:29-39.
    In this paper I will introduce a problem for at least those Humeans who believe that the future is open.More particularly, I will argue that the following aspect of scientific practice cannot be explained by openfuture- Humeanism: There is a distinction between states that we cannot bring about (which are represented in scientific models as nomologically impossible) and states that we merely happen not to bring about. Open-future-Humeanism has no convincing account of this distinction. Therefore it fails to explain why (...)
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  49. Andrea Iacona (forthcoming). Ockhamism and Quantified Modal Logic. Logique Et Analyse.
    This paper outlines a formal account of tensed sentences that is consistent with Ockhamism, a view according to which future contingents are either true or false. The account outlined substantively differs from the attempts that have been made so far to provide a formal apparatus for such a view in terms of some expressly modified version of branching time semantics. The system on which it is based is the simplest quantified modal logic.
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  50. Andrea Iacona (2014). Ockhamism Without Thin Red Lines. Synthese 191 (12):2633-2652.
    This paper investigates the logic of Ockhamism, a view according to which future contingents are either true or false. Several attempts have been made to give rigorous shape to this view by defining a suitable formal semantics, but arguably none of them is fully satisfactory. The paper draws attention to some problems that beset such attempts, and suggests that these problems are different symptoms of the same initial confusion, in that they stem from the unjustified assumption that the actual course (...)
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