Temporal Becoming: The Argument From Physics

Philosophical Forum 6:218-236 (1974)
Abstract
Arguments about temporal becoming often get nowhere. One reason for the impasse lies in the fact that the issue has been formulated as a choice between science on the one hand and common sense (or ordinary language) on the other as the primary source of ontological commitment.' Often' proponents of attributing temporal becoming to the physical universe look to everyday temporal concepts, find them infested with notions involving temporal becoming and conclude that becoming is a basic feature of the physical world. Their opponents may look to physical science, find no reference to temporal becoming and conclude that becoming is not part of the extramental universe.2 Thus construed, the issue of temporal becoming is not directly amenable to argument. This stalemate will be broken, however, if I accomplish my aim: to (re)formulate the question of temporal becoming so that it is subject to adjudication; to show how objections to the thesis of the mind-dependence of becoming can fruitfully be seen (and in a sense unified) as attacks on a single argument for the thesis, an argument from physics; and to defend the con'elusion of the argument from physics from heretofore unanswered objections. The question of the status of temporal becoming is the question of the status of past, present and future.' Events which are at one time in the future, are said to become present and subsequently to recede into the past. Since past and future can be defined as 'earlier than now' and 'later than..
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