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About this topic

Presentism is typically taken as the ‘common-sense’ account of time, and is most easily characterized as the combination of two theses. First of all, the presentist holds that only the present time exists, or conversely that no non-present times exist. Alternatively, this ontological thesis is often formulated solely in terms of present objects, i.e. as the thesis that only present objects exist or that no non-present objects exist. This makes presentism the natural foil for eternalism, which holds that past, present, and future times (or objects) are ontologically on par. Second, presentism is typically understood as an A-theoretic account of time committed to an objective, changing present. This commitment to a dynamic account of time is shared with similar A-theoretic accounts such as the growing block and moving spotlight views of time. 

Key works

Contemporary presentism can trace its roots back to the work of A.N. Prior, but the classic contemporary defense of the view is provided by Bigelow 1996. Bigelow presents a forceful statement of presentism’s common-sense motivations as well as a popular template for responding to some of presentism’s most pressing objections. Markosian 2004 provides a useful summary of objections faced by presentism and defends a number of responses. Keller 2004 is an excellent survey of one of presentism’s central philosophical problems, the truthmaking objection, and argues against a number of responses available to the presentist. Bourne 2006 provides a powerful book-length defense of presentism, while Crisp 2007 argues for a similar account. Bourne and Crisp offer what is termed an ‘ersatz’ account of presentism that represents a state of the art response to truthmaking objections to presentism. Merricks 2007 and Tallant 2009 contain interesting further discussion of presentism and the truthmaking objection. Presentism is also often taken to face a challenge from relativity. Putnam 1967 and Rietdijk 1966 represent the classic presentation of this challenge. See Monton 2006 and Wuthrich 2010 for further discussion of the relationship between presentism and contemporary physics.


Good introductions include Crisp 2003, Markosian 2010, and Miller 2013.

Related categories

350 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. Reply to Kvanvig.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1989 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (2):299-301.
  3. Time and Thisness.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1986 - 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 (...)
  4. Identity and Becoming.Robert Allen - 2000 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 38 (4):527-548.
    A material object is constituted by a sum of parts all of which are essential to the sum but some of which seem inessential to the object itself. Such object/sum of parts pairs include my body/its torso and appendages and my desk/its top, drawers, and legs. In these instances, we are dealing with objects and their components. But, fundamentally, we may also speak, as Locke does, of an object and its constitutive matter—a “mass of particles”—or even of that aggregate and (...)
  5. A Future for Presentism - by Craig Bourne.Neil Amanson - 2008 - Philosophical Books 49 (1):65-67.
  6. Minkowski Spacetime and the Dimensions of the Present.Richard T. W. Arthur - unknown
    In Minkowski spacetime, because of the relativity of simultaneity to the inertial frame chosen, there is no unique world-at-an-instant. Thus the classical view that there is a unique set of events existing now in a three dimensional space cannot be sustained. The two solutions most often advanced are that the four-dimensional structure of events and processes is alone real, and that becoming present is not an objective part of reality; and that present existence is not an absolute notion, but is (...)
  7. Truthmaker Theory.Jamin Asay - 2014 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Truthmaker theory is the branch of metaphysics that explores the relationships between what is true and what exists. Discussions of truthmakers and truthmaking typically start with the idea that truth depends on being, and not vice versa. For example, if the sentence ‘Kangaroos live in Australia’ is true, then there are kangaroos living in Australia. And if there are kangaroos living in Australia, then the sentence ‘Kangaroos live in Australia’ is true. But we can ask whether the sentence is true (...)
  8. 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 (...)
  9. Past, Present and Future in Relativity.Zdzisław Augustynek - 1976 - Studia Logica 35 (1):45 - 53.
  10. Unreality and Time.Archie J. Bahm - 1987 - International Studies in Philosophy 19 (3):68-70.
  11. Presentism and the Grounding of Truth.Alex Baia - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 159 (3):341-356.
    Many philosophers believe that truth is grounded: True propositions depend for their truth on the world. Some philosophers believe that truth’s grounding has implications for our ontology of time. If truth is grounded, then truth supervenes on being. But if truth supervenes on being, then presentism is false since, on presentism, e.g., that there were dinosaurs fails to supervene on the whole of being plus the instantiation pattern of properties and relations. Call this the grounding argument against presentism. Many presentists (...)
  12. 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. (...)
  13. Presentism and Relativity, Http:/Philsci-Archive. Pitt. Edu, Forthcoming In.Y. Balashov & M. Janssen - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
  14. Review of Craig Bourne, A Future for Presentism[REVIEW]Yuri Balashov - 2007 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2007 (7).
  15. Forthcoming.“Presentism and Relativity.”.Yuri Balashov & Michel Janssen - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
  16. Review: Presentism and Relativity. [REVIEW]Yuri Balashov & Michel Janssen - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (2):327-346.
    In this critical notice we argue against William Craig's recent attempt to reconcile presentism (roughly, the view that only the present is real) with relativity theory. Craig's defense of his position boils down to endorsing a 'neo-Lorentzian interpretation' of special relativity. We contend that his reconstruction of Lorentz's theory and its historical development is fatally flawed and that his arguments for reviving this theory fail on many counts.
  17. Critical Notice: Presentism and Relativity.Yuri Balashov & Michel Janssen - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54:327--46.
  18. Presentism and Relativity. [REVIEW]Yuri Balashov & Michel Janssen - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (2):327-346.
    In this critical notice we argue against William Craig's recent attempt to reconcile presentism (roughly, the view that only the present is real) with relativity theory. Craig's defense of his position boils down to endorsing a ‘neo-Lorentzian interpretation’ of special relativity. We contend that his reconstruction of Lorentz's theory and its historical development is fatally flawed and that his arguments for reviving this theory fail on many counts. 1 Rival theories of time 2 Relativity and the present 3 Special relativity: (...)
  19. Tract on Time: Time in the Conceptions of Recentivism and Presentism.Józef Bańka - 1994 - Wydawn. Uniwersytetu Śląskiego.
  20. A Companion to the Philosophy of Time.Bardon Adrian & Dyke Heather (eds.) - 2013 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  21. Change and Continuity.Ernest Barker - 1949 - London: Gollancz.
  22. Paradoxes of Multi-Location.Stephen Barker & Phil Dowe - 2003 - Analysis 63 (2):106–114.
  23. 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 (...)
  24. A Bump on the Road to Presentism.Sam Baron - 2015 - American Philosophical Quarterly 52 (4):345-355.
    Presentism faces a familiar objection from truthmaker theory. How can propositions about the past be made true if past entities do not exist? In answering this question, there are, broadly, two roads open to the presentist. The easy road to presentism proceeds by capitulating to the demands imposed by truthmaker theory and finding truthmakers for claims about the past. This road typically involves the invocation of controversial metaphysical posits that must then be defended. The hard road to presentism resists the (...)
  25. Tensed Truthmaker Theory.Sam Baron - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (5):923-944.
    Presentism faces a serious challenge from truthmaker theory. Standard solutions to the truthmaker objection against presentism proceed in one of two ways. Easy road presentists invoke new entities to satisfy the requirements of truthmaker theory. Hard road presentists, by contrast, flatly refuse to give in to truthmaker demands. Recently, a third way has been proposed. This response seeks to address the truthmaking problem by tensing our truthmaker principles. These views, though intuitive, are under-developed. In this paper, I get serious about (...)
  26. 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, (...)
  27. Presentism, Truth and Supervenience.Sam Baron - 2013 - Ratio 26 (1):3-18.
    Truthmaker theory is commonly thought to pose a challenge for presentism. Presentism seems to lack the ontological and ideological resources required to adequately underwrite the truth of propositions concerning the past. That is because if presentism is true, then the past does not exist. According to the standard response to this challenge, the truth of propositions concerning the past supervenes on surrogate entities that ‘stand proxy’ for past things. I argue that in order for the standard response to the truthmaker (...)
  28. Talking About the Past.Sam Baron - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (3):547-560.
    In this paper I consider the aboutness objection against standard truth-preserving presentism (STP). According to STP: (1) past-directed propositions (propositions that seem to be about the past) like , are sometimes true (2) truth supervenes on being and (3) the truth of past-directed propositions does not supervene on how things were, in the past. According to the aboutness objection (3) is implausible, given (1) and (2): for any proposition, P, P ought to be true in virtue of what P is (...)
  29. Tensed Supervenience: A No‐Go for Presentism.Sam Baron - 2013 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (3):383-401.
    Recent attempts to resolve the truthmaker objection to presentism employ a fundamentally tensed account of the relationship between truth and being. On this view, the truth of a proposition concerning the past supervenes on how things are, in the present, along with how things were, in the past. This tensed approach to truthmaking arises in response to pressure placed on presentists to abandon the standard response to the truthmaker objection, whereby one invokes presently existing entities as the supervenience base for (...)
  30. Can Indispensability‐Driven Platonists Be (Serious) Presentists?Sam Baron - 2013 - Theoria 79 (3):153-173.
    In this article I consider what it would take to combine a certain kind of mathematical Platonism with serious presentism. I argue that a Platonist moved to accept the existence of mathematical objects on the basis of an indispensability argument faces a significant challenge if she wishes to accept presentism. This is because, on the one hand, the indispensability argument can be reformulated as a new argument for the existence of past entities and, on the other hand, if one accepts (...)
  31. Presentism and Causation Revisited.Sam Baron - 2012 - Philosophical Papers 41 (1):1-21.
    One of the major difficulties facing presentism is the problem of causation. In this paper, I propose a new solution to that problem, one that is compatible with intrinsic, fundamental causal relations. Accommodating relations of this kind is important because (i) according to David Lewis (2004), such relations are needed to account for causation in our world and worlds relevantly similar to our own, (ii) there is no other strategy currently available that successfully reconciles presentism with relations of this kind (...)
  32. The Present Vs. The Specious Present.Jiri Benovsky - 2013 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (2):193-203.
    This article is concerned with the alleged incompatibility between presentism and specious present theories of temporal experience. According to presentism, the present time is instantaneous (or, near-instantaneous), while according to specious present theories, the specious present is temporally extended—therefore, it seems that there is no room in reality for the whole of a specious present, if presentism is true. It seems then that one of the two claims—presentism or the specious present theory—has to go. I shall argue that this kind (...)
  33. Presentism and Persistence.Jiri Benovsky - 2009 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90 (3):291-309.
    In this paper, I examine various theories of persistence through time under presentism. In Part I, I argue that both perdurantist views (namely, the worm view and the stage view) suffer, in combination with presentism, from serious difficulties and should be rejected. In Part II, I discuss the presentist endurantist view, to see that it does avoid the difficulties of the perdurantist views, and consequently that it does work, but at a price that some may consider as being very high: (...)
  34. 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 (...)
  35. (Serious) Actualism and (Serious) Presentism.Michael Bergmann - 1999 - Noûs 33 (1):118-132.
  36. Time Travel and the Movable Present.Sara Bernstein - 2017 - In John Keller (ed.), Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter van Inwagen. pp. 80-94.
    In "Changing the Past" (2010), Peter van Inwagen argues that a time traveler can change the past without paradox in a growing block universe. After erasing the portion of past existence that generates paradox, a new, non-paradox-generating block can be "grown" after the temporal relocation of the time traveler. -/- I articulate and explore the underlying mechanism of Van Inwagen's model: the time traveler's control over the location of the objective present. Van Inwagen's model is aimed at preventing paradox by (...)
  37. 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, (...)
  38. Presentism and Properties.John Bigelow - 1996 - Philosophical Perspectives 10 (Metaphysics):35-52.
  39. Worlds Enough for Time.John Bigelow - 1991 - Noûs 25 (1):1-19.
  40. A Span-Er in the Works for Presentism?Craig Bourne - manuscript
    Arthur Prior states that ‘It will be/was/is that p’ is true iff ‘p’ will be/was/is true, and that is all that needs to be said about the matter. This appears to avoid any need to invoke the existence of non-present entities and accounts for tensed truths with very little ontological cost. However, as David Lewis notes, this version of presentism gives the wrong results when applied to numerically quantified tensed propositions. I show how presentism can accommodate numerical quantification by introducing (...)
  41. A Future for Presentism.Craig Bourne - 2009 - Oxford University Press UK.
    How can we talk meaningfully about the past if it does not exist to be talked about? What gives time its direction? Is time travel possible? This defence of presentism - the view that only the present exists - makes an original contribution to a fast growing and exciting debate.
  42. Numerical Quantification and Temporal Intervals: A Span-Er in the Works for Presentism?Craig Bourne - 2007 - Logique Et Analyse 199:303-316.
  43. A Theory of Presentism.Craig Bourne - 2006 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (1):1-23.
    Most of us would want to say that it is true that Socrates taught Plato. According to realists about past facts,1 this is made true by the fact that there is, located in the past, i.e., earlier than now, at least one real event that is the teaching of Plato by Socrates. Presentists, however, in denying that past events and facts exist2 cannot appeal to such facts to make their past-tensed statements true. So what is a presentist to do?
  44. A Future for Presentism.Craig Bourne - 2006 - Oxford University Press.
    How can we talk meaningfully about the past if it does not exist to be talked about? What gives time its direction? Is time travel possible? This defence of presentism - the view that only the present exists - makes an original contribution to a fast growing and exciting debate.
  45. 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 (...)
  46. 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 (...)
  47. When is Death Bad for the One Who Dies?Ben Bradley - 2004 - Noûs 38 (1):1–28.
    Epicurus seems to have thought that death is not bad for the one who dies, since its badness cannot be located in time. I show that Epicurus’ argument presupposes Presentism, and I argue that death is bad for its victim at all and only those times when the person would have been living a life worth living had she not died when she did. I argue that my account is superior to competing accounts given by Thomas Nagel, Fred Feldman and (...)
  48. Philosophical Investigations on Space, Time, and the Continuum.Franz Brentano - 1988 - 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.
  49. Span Operators.B. Brogaard - 2007 - Analysis 67 (1):72-79.
    I. Tensed Plural Quantifiers Presentists typically assent to a range of tensed statements, for instance, that there were dinosaurs, that there was a president named Lincoln, and that my future grandchildren will be on their way to school.1 Past- and future-tensed claims are dealt with by introducing primitive, intensional tense operators, for instance, it has been 12 years ago that, it was the case when I was born that, and it will be the case that (Prior 1968). For example, ‘there (...)
  50. Transient Truths: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Propositions.Berit Brogaard - 2012 - Oup Usa.
    Transient Truths provides the first book-length exposition and defense of the opposing view, temporalism: these are contents that can change their truth-values along with changes in the world.
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