Semantic externalism and presentism

In this paper I discuss an unconventional form of presentism which, I claim, captures better than all other versions of the doctrine the fundamental notion underpinning it, namely, the notion that 'only what is present is real'. My proposal is to take this maxim as stating, not the rather uncontroversial view that past things are not real now, but the more radical idea that they never were. This rendition of presentism is, I argue, the only one that is neither trivial nor absurd. I examine this proposal by considering it against a sceptical hypothesis that bears similarities to it, viz., the hypothesis that the world was created five minutes ago. On this hypothesis, the past, all but five minutes of it, is unreal, in precisely the sense in which the presentism I discuss claims it is. I show that, assuming semantic externalism, this sceptical hypothesis cannot be sustained, but that a somewhat weaker hypothesis, the Creationist hypothesis that the world is 5,768 years old, cannot be refuted. Together, these conclusions enable a demarcation of those presentist intuitions that language and thought tolerate and those they do not.
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DOI 10.1080/09672550802335986
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References found in this work BETA
Saul Kripke (2010). Naming and Necessity. In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Philosophy. Routledge 431-433.
Ned Markosian (2004). A Defence of Presentism. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1 (3):47-82.

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