Edited by Sam Baron (University of Western Australia)
Assistant editor: James Darcy (University of Virginia)
About this topic
Summary Eternalism is the picture of time delivered to us by the special and general theories of relativity. Eternalists hold, roughly, that (i) all times from the big-bang to the heat death of the universe exist equally; (ii) there is nothing metaphysically special about the present (terms like 'present' and 'now' are indexical notions); (iii) the passage of time is not an objective feature of reality. Eternalism is also known as the 'block universe' view, which is meant to suggest a conception of the universe as a four-dimensional spacetime manifold.
Key works

Mellor 1998 offers a book length defense of the eternalist model of time and discusses many of the issues and arguments surrounding the view. For early defenders of the view see Williams 1951, which offers the prototype argument for eternalism or the manifold/block universe, and Taylor 1955, which emphasizes the lack of clear difference between time and space. Putnam 1967 and Rietdijk 1966 advocate for an eternalist model of time based on the special theory of relativity, and Smart 1963 holds that eternalism results from dropping our pre-scientific, anthropocentric view of the world. Sider 2001 argues effectively for eternalism in the midst of a book length defense of a perdurance theory of persistence.

Introductions Good introductions include Rea 2003, Miller 2013, the collected papers in Ciuni et al 2013 and Markosian 2010.
Related categories

185 found
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  1. Future Contingents, Freedom, and Foreknowledge.Mohammed Abouzahr - 2013 - Dissertation, Wayne State University
    This essay is a contribution to the new trend and old tradition of analyzing theological fatalism in light of its relationship to logical fatalism. All results pertain to branching temporal systems that use the A-theory and assume presentism. The project focuses on two kinds of views about branching time. One position is true futurism, which designates what will occur regardless of contingency. The opposing view is open futurism, by which no possible course of events is privileged over others; that is, (...)
  2. Bacc to the Future?Nick Alchin - 2003 - The Philosophers' Magazine 23 (23):15-16.
  3. A New Theory of Free Will.Marcus Arvan - 2013 - 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 (...)
  4. The Hard Road to Presentism.Jamin Asay & Sam Baron - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (3):314-335.
    It is a common criticism of presentism – the view according to which only the present exists – that it errs against truthmaker theory. Recent attempts to resolve the truthmaker objection against presentism proceed by restricting truthmaker maximalism (the view that all truths have truthmakers), maintaining that propositions concerning the past are not made true by anything, but are true nonetheless. Support for this view is typically garnered from the case for negative existential propositions, which some philosophers contend are exceptions (...)
  5. Past, Present and Future in Relativity.Zdzisław Augustynek - 1976 - Studia Logica 35 (1):45 - 53.
  6. Tense and Relativity.Andrew Bacon - 2016 - Noûs 50 (4).
    Those inclined to positions in the philosophy of time that take tense seriously have typically assumed that not all regions of space-time are equal: one special region of space-time corresponds to what is presently happening. When combined with assumptions from modern physics this has the unsettling consequence that the shape of this favored region distinguishes people in certain places or people traveling at certain velocities. In this paper I shall attempt to avoid this result by developing a tensed picture of (...)
  7. Unreality and Time.Archie J. Bahm - 1987 - International Studies in Philosophy 19 (3):68-70.
  8. Anti‐Metaphysicalism, Necessity, and Temporal Ontology.Mark Balaguer - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (1):145-167.
    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. (...)
  9. Presentism and Relativity, Http:/Philsci-Archive. Pitt. Edu, Forthcoming In.Y. Balashov & M. Janssen - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
  10. Forthcoming.“Presentism and Relativity.”.Yuri Balashov & Michel Janssen - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
  11. A Companion to the Philosophy of Time.Bardon Adrian & Dyke Heather (eds.) - 2013 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  12. The Puzzle of the Changing Past.L. Barlassina & F. Del Prete - 2015 - Analysis 75 (1):59-67.
    If you utter sentence ‘Obama was born in 1961’ now, you say something true about the past. Since the past will always be such that the year 1961 has the property of being a time in which Obama was born, it seems impossible that could ever be false in a future context of utterance. We shall consider the case of a sentence about the past exactly like , but which was true when uttered a few years ago and is no (...)
  13. No Longer True.Luca Barlassina & Fabio Del Prete - manuscript
    There are sentences that express the same temporally fully specified proposition at all contexts--call them 'context-insensitive, temporally specific sentences.' Sentence (1) 'Obama was born in 1961' is a case in point: at all contexts, it expresses the proposition ascribing to the year 1961 the property of being a time in which Obama was born. Suppose that someone uttered (1) in a context located on Christmas 2000 in our world. In this context, (1) is a true sentence about the past. Moreover, (...)
  14. The Puzzle of the Changing Past.Luca Barlassina & Fabio Del Prete - 2015 - Analysis 75 (1):59-67.
    If you utter sentence ‘Obama was born in 1961’ now, you say something true about the past. Since the past will always be such that the year 1961 has the property of being a time in which Obama was born, it seems impossible that could ever be false in a future context of utterance. We shall consider the case of a sentence about the past exactly like , but which was true when uttered a few years ago and is no (...)
  15. The Priority of the Now.Sam Baron - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly:0-0.
    This paper motivates and develops a new theory of time: priority presentism. Priority presentism is the view according to which (i) only present entities exist fundamentally and (ii) past and future entities exist, but they are grounded in the present. The articulation of priority presentism is an exercise in applied grounding: it draws on concepts from the recent literature on ontological dependence and applies those concepts in a new way, to the philosophy of time. The result, as I will argue, (...)
  16. Non-Paradoxical Multi-Location.Helen Beebee & Michael Rush - 2003 - Analysis 63 (4):311–317.
  17. Two Moves Take Newtonian Determinism to Branching Space-Times.Nuel Belnap - unknown
    “Branching space-times” is intended as a representation of objective, event-based indeterminism. As such, BST exhibits both a spatio-temporal aspect and an indeterministic “modal” aspect of alternative possible historical courses of events. An essential feature of BST is that it can also represent spatial or space-like relationships as part of its relativistic theory of spatio-temporal relations; this ability is essential for the representation of local indeterminism. This essay indicates how BST might be seen to grow out of Newton ’s deterministic and (...)
  18. Eternalist Theories of Persistence Through Time: Where the Differences Really Lie.Jiri Benovsky - 2009 - Axiomathes 19 (1):51-71.
    The eternalist endurantist and perdurantist theories of persistence through time come in various versions, namely the two versions of perdurantism: the worm view and the stage view , and the two versions of endurantism: indexicalism and adverbialism . Using as a starting point the instructive case of what is depicted by photographs, I will examine these four views, and compare them, with some interesting results. Notably, we will see that two traditional enemies—the perdurantist worm view and the endurantist theories—are more (...)
  19. Persistence Through Time and Across Possible Worlds.Jiri Benovsky - 2006 - Ontos Verlag.
    How do ordinary objects persist through time and across possible worlds ? How do they manage to have their temporal and modal properties ? These are the questions adressed in this book which is a "guided tour of theories of persistence". The book is divided in two parts. In the first, the two traditional accounts of persistence through time (endurantism and perdurantism) are combined with presentism and eternalism to yield four different views, and their variants. The resulting views are then (...)
  20. Time of Philosophers, Time of Physicists, Time of Mathematicians.Fabien Besnard - unknown
    Is presentism or possibilism compatible with Relativity? This question has been much debated since the argument first proposed by Rietdijk and Putnam. The goal of this text is to study the implications of both special and general relativity, and quantum mechanics, on presentism, possibilism, and eternalism. We put the emphasis on the implicit metaphysical preconceptions underlying each of these different approaches to the question of time. We show that there exists a unique version of presentism which is both non trivial, (...)
  21. Time and Events.Erwin Biser - 1953 - Philosophy of Science 20 (3):238-240.
  22. God, Time and Eternity.Steve Bishop - 2004 - Quodlibet 6.
  23. Numerical Quantification and Temporal Intervals: A Span-Er in the Works for Presentism?Craig Bourne - 2007 - Logique Et Analyse 199:303-316.
  24. Physically Locating the Present: A Case of Reading Physics as a Contribution to Philosophy.Katherine Brading - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 50:13-19.
    In this paper I argue that reading history of physics as a contribution to history of philosophy is important for contemporary philosophy of physics. My argument centers around a particular case: special relativity versus presentism. By means of resources drawn from reading aspects of Newton's work as contributions to philosophy, I argue that there is in physics an alternative way to approach what we mean by "present" such that presentism remains an open empirical question whose refutation requires resources that go (...)
  25. Presentism as an Empirical Hypothesis.Katherine Brading - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):1101-1111.
    Within philosophy of physics it is broadly accepted that presentism as an empirical hypothesis has been falsified by the development of special relativity. In this paper, I identify and reject an assumption common to both presentists and advocates of the block universe, and then offer an alternative version of presentism that does not begin from spatiotemporal structure, which is an empirical hypothesis, and which has yet to be falsified. I fear that labelling it “presentism” dooms the view, but I don’t (...)
  26. Eternalism and Death's Badness Syracuse University.Ben Bradley - unknown
    Suppose that at the moment of death, a person goes out of existence.1 This has been thought to pose a problem for the idea that death is bad for its victim. But what exactly is the problem? Harry Silverstein says the problem stems from the truth of the “Values Connect with Feelings” thesis (VCF), according to which it must be possible for someone to have feelings about a thing in order for that thing to be bad for that person (2000, (...)
  27. Eternalism and Death's Badness.Ben Bradley - 2010 - In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & Harry Silverstein (eds.), Time and Identity. MIT Press.
    This chapter discusses the metaphysical view referred to by Harry Silverstein as “four-dimensionalism,” but referred to in this chapter as “eternalism.” In contrast to presentism, eternalism posits that purely past and purely future objects and events exist. If a person goes out of existence at the moment of death, the problem arises as to how death is bad for its victim. According to Silverstein, this problem arises from the truth of the “Values Connect with Feelings” thesis, according to which it (...)
  28. The B-Theory of Time and the Fear of Death.Mikel Burley - 2008 - Polish Journal of Philosophy 2 (2):21-38.
    This paper discusses Robin Le Poidevin’s proposal that a commitment to the B-theory of time provides a reason to relinquish the fear of death. After outlining Le Poidevin’s views on time and death, I analyze the specific passages in which he makes his proposal, giving close attention to the claim that, for the B-theorist, one’s life is “eternally real.” I distinguish two possible interpretations of this claim, which I call alethic eternalism and ontic eternalism respectively, and argue, with reference to (...)
  29. Seeing the Present.J. Butterfield - 1984 - Mind 93 (370):161-176.
  30. Prior's Conception Of Time.Jeremy Butterfield - 1983 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 84:193-209.
  31. Temporal Scattering.William Bynoe - manuscript
    I show that the Eternalist faces a trilemma. Given their theory of time, three claims are each very plausible, yet together form an inconsistent triad. Denying any one of these claims will have significant consequences for how they can conceive of the material realm. I urge that the best strategy is to deny the first claim, and show that this would have a significant consequence: Perdurantism is false.
  32. Time's Ontic Voltage.Craig Callender - unknown
    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 (...)
  33. Metaphysics of Time in Spacetime.Claudio Calosi - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):1-8.
    I give a new and more general argument against presentism within relativistic spacetimes. This argument is untouched by different recent proposals designed to save presentism in a relativistic setting.
  34. On Characterizing the Presentism/Eternalism and Actualism/Possibilism Debates.Ross P. Cameron - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (2):110-140.
  35. New Papers on the Present: Focus on Presentism.Roberto Ciuni, Giuliano Torrengo & Kristie Miller (eds.) - 2013 - Philosophia Verlag.
    The book is divided into three parts. The first, containing three papers, focuses on the characterization of the central tenets of previii sentism (by Neil McKinnon) and eternalism (by Samuel Baron and Kristie Miller), and on the ‘sceptical stance’ (by Ulrich Meyer), a view to the effect that there is no substantial difference between presentism and eternalism. The second and main section of the book contains three pairs of papers that bring the main problems with presentism to the fore and (...)
  36. The Definability of Objective Becoming in Minkowski Spacetime.Rob Clifton & Mark Hogarth - 1995 - 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) (...)
  37. Advice for Eleatics.Sam Cowling - forthcoming - In Chris Daly (ed.), Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods.
    Eleaticism ties ontology to causality by denying the impossibility of causally inert entities. This paper examines some challenges regarding the proper formulation and general plausibility of Eleaticism. After suggesting how Eleatics ought to respond to these challenges, I consider the prospects for extending Eleaticism from ontology to ideology by requiring all primitive ideology to be causal in nature. Surprisingly enough, the resulting view delivers an eternalist and possibilist metaphysical picture in the neighborhood of Lewisian modal realism.
  38. Timelessness and Creation.William L. Craig - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):646 – 656.
  39. In Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.William Lane Craig - 1997 - Faith and Philosophy 14 (2):236-247.
    Graham Oppy’s attempt to show that the critiques of the kalam cosmological argument offered by Griinbaum, Davies, and Hawking are successful is predicated upon a misunderstanding of the nature of defeaters in rational belief. Neither Grunbaum nor Oppy succeed in showing an incoherence in the Christian doctrine of creation. Oppy’s attempts to rehabilitate Davies’s critique founders on spurious counter-examples and unsubstantiated claims. Oppy’s defense of Hawking’s critique fails to allay suspicions about the reality of imaginary time and finally results in (...)
  40. On the Argument for Divine Timelessness From the Incompleteness of Temporal Life.William Lane Craig - 1997 - Heythrop Journal 38 (2):165–171.
    A promising argument for divine timelessness is that temporal life is possessed only moment by moment, which is incompatible with the existence of a perfect being.Since the argument is based on the experience of time’s passage, it cannot be circumvented by appeal to a tenseless theory of time.Neither can the argument be subverted by appeals to a temporal deity’s possession of a specious present of infinite duration.Nonetheless, because the argument concerns one’s experience of time’s passage rather than the objective reality (...)
  41. Duns Scotus on Eternity and Timelessness.Richard Cross - 1997 - Faith and Philosophy 14 (1):3-25.
    Scotus consistently holds that eternity is to be understood as timelessness. In his early Lectura, he criticizes Aquinas’ account of eternity on the grounds that (1) it entails collapsing past and future into the present, and (2) it entails a B-theory of time, according to which past, present and future are all ontologically on a par with each other. Scotus later comes to accept something like Aquinas’ account of God’s timelessness and the B-theory of time which it entails. Scotus also (...)
  42. The Unique Groundability of Temporal Facts.John Cusbert & Kristie Miller - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (1).
    The A-theory and the B-theory advance competing claims about how time is grounded. The A-theory says that A-facts are more fundamental in grounding time than are B-facts, and the B-theory says the reverse. We argue that whichever theory is true of the actual world is also true of all possible worlds containing time. We do this by arguing that time is uniquely groundable: however time is actually grounded, it is necessarily grounded in that way. It follows that if either the (...)
  43. What Happens to the Present When It Becomes the Past?Paul R. Daniels - forthcoming - In Jacob Held (ed.), Stephen King and Philosophy. Rowman & 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 (...)
  44. The Persistent Time Traveller: Contemporary Issues in the Metaphysics of Time and Persistence.Paul Richard Daniels - 2014 - Dissertation, Monash University
    The main theme of this thesis is time travel; time travel cases—both from relativistic physics and science fiction—provide or highlight deep problems for certain positions in contemporary debates about the metaphysical nature of time and of how material objects persist through time. This thesis explores the implications of these discussions; more specifically, I draw attention to some of the interesting things we can learn about presentism and endurantism from discussions of time travel cases that have been raised recently in the (...)
  45. Endurantism and Paradox.Paul Richard Daniels - 2013 - Philosophia 41 (4):1173-1179.
    Mereological challenges have recently been raised against the endurantist. For instance, Barker and Dowe (2003) have argued that eternalist endurantism entails (1) persisting objects are both 3D and 4D, and that (2) the lives of persisting objects last longer than they actually do. They also argue that presentist endurantism also entails, albeit in a tensed way, that (3) the lives of persisting objects last longer than they actually do. While they’ve further argued (2005) that the objections raised by McDaniel (2003) (...)
  46. Presentism and the Problem of Cross-Time Relations.Rafael De Clercq - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (2):386 - 402.
    Presentism is the view that only present entities exist. Recently, several authors have asked the question whether presentism is able to account for cross-time relations, i.e., roughly, relations between entities existing at different times. In this paper I claim that this question is to be answered in the affirmative. To make this claim plausible, I consider four types of cross-time relation and show how each can be accommodated without difficulty within the metaphysical framework of presentism.
  47. The Moving Spotlight Theory.Daniel Deasy - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (8):2073-2089.
    The aim of this paper is to describe and defend the moving spotlight theory of time. I characterise the moving spotlight theory as the conjunction of two theses: permanentism, the thesis that everything exists forever, and the A-theory, the thesis that there is an absolute, objective present time. I begin in Sect. 2 by clearing up some common misconceptions about the moving spotlight theory, focusing on the discussion of the theory in Sider. In doing so, I also fill-out the barebones (...)
  48. On Whether B-Theoretic Atheists Should Fear Death.Natalja Deng - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (4):1011-1021.
    In this paper I revisit a dispute between Mikel Burley and Robin Le Poidevin about whether or not the B-theory of time can give its adherents any reason to be less afraid of death. In ‘Should a B-theoretic atheist fear death?’, Burley argues that even on Le Poidevin’s understanding of the B-theory, atheists shouldn’t be comforted. His reason is that the prevalent B-theoretic account of our attitudes towards the past and future precludes treating our fear of death as unwarranted. I (...)
  49. The Ontology of Spacetime.Dennis Geert Bernardus Johan Dieks (ed.) - 2006 - Elsevier.
    This book contains selected papers from the First International Conference on the Ontology of Spacetime. Its fourteen chapters address two main questions: first, what is the current status of the substantivalism/relationalism debate, and second, what about the prospects of presentism and becoming within present-day physics and its philosophy? The overall tenor of the four chapters of the book’s first part is that the prospects of spacetime substantivalism are bleak, although different possible positions remain with respect to the ontological status of (...)
  50. Presentism and the Experience of Time.Mauro Dorato - 2015 - Topoi 34 (1):265-275.
    Presentists have typically argued that the Block View is incapable of explaining our experience of time. In this paper I argue that the phenomenology of our experience of time is, on the contrary, against presentism. My argument is based on a dilemma: presentists must either assume that the metaphysical present has no temporal extension, or that it is temporally extended. The former horn leads to phenomenological problems. The latter renders presentism metaphysically incoherent, unless one posits a discrete present that, however, (...)
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