Temporal Ontology

Edited by Sam Baron (University of Melbourne)
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Summary

Temporal ontology is home to two central issues in the philosophy of time. The first issue concerns the ontological status of the present. The debate here is between A-theorists on the one hand, and both B- and C-theorists on the other. At the very least, all A-theorists hold that there is an objective present moment that changes as time passes. On the other hand, B-theorists hold that there exist relations of earlier than, later than, and simultaneous with, while C-theorists maintain that times are ordered but directionless (so times are not objectively earlier or later than any other time). The dispute between A-theorists, and B- and C-theorists is owed to the A-theorist’s acceptance of a changing present moment, and the B- and C-theoretical denial of this. Accordingly, the debate is often characterised as a dynamic/static divide. Additionally, a related issue is the relationship between future and agency. If, as B- and C-theorists maintain, the future is on equal footing with all other times, then arguably all of the facts about the future are already settled. But if the facts about the future are already settled, then the future is closed. If, however, the future is closed, then it would seem that there is nothing we can do now to alter what is going to happen. The central issue facing eternalism from agency then is how to avoid descending into fatalism. The second debate in the temporal ontology literature is that between different versions of the A-theory and concerns the ontological status of the past and future, given the A-theoretical acceptance of the present. These different accounts can be divided into liberal accounts of temporal ontology, according to which past, present and future entities all exist and conservative accounts of temporal ontology, which deny that past, present and future entities all exist. Liberal approaches to temporal ontology are comprised of versions of the moving spotlight view, according to which all times exist but the present is objectively privileged. The most severe form of conservativeness about temporal ontology is presentism, according to which only present entities exist. 

Key works

Bourne 2006 is a book-length defense of presentism. Putnam 1967 presents the chief motivation for eternalism, namely that it is implied by the special theory of relativity. Mellor 1998 is an important exposition and defense of an eternalist model of time, whereas Tooley 1997 is an attempt to develop a middle-ground position between presentism and eternalism, according to which the past and present exist but the future does not. Additionally, Sullivan 2012 is a key work on the A-theory. Useful comparisons between the different views on the nature of time include Miller 2013 and Savitt 2006Barnes & Cameron 2011, and Todd 2021 are both important texts on temporal ontology and fatalism. Tallant 2015 talks about grounding truth in presentism, and Braddon-Mitchell 2004 looks at epistemic issues in regard to the objective now on non-presentist views.  

Introductions

Good articles include Markosian 2010, Rice 2008Hoefer 2008Le Poidevin 2008, and Deng 2017

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  1. About time, concisely. [REVIEW]Matias Slavov - forthcoming - Metascience:1-4.
    Adrian Bardon has produced a new version of his historical introduction to the philosophy of time. Originally published in 2013, the second edition of 2024 is partly rewritten and supplemented with a more extensive discussion on our disposition to project the passage of time [...] Although the book’s title emphasizes history, most of the chapters are directed at issues in systematic philosophy of time: the realism/antirealism debate, temporal passage, temporal experience, spacetime, direction, time travel, time and free will, and the (...)
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  2. Mental Time Travel in Animals: The “When” of Mental Time Travel.Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller & Rasmus Pedersen - forthcoming - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
    While many aspects of cognition have been shown to be shared between humans and non-human animals, there remains controversy regarding whether the capacity to mentally time travel is a uniquely human one. In this paper, we argue that there are four ways of representing when some event happened: four kinds of temporal representation. Distinguishing these four kinds of temporal representation has five benefits. First, it puts us in a position to determine the particular benefits these distinct temporal representations afford an (...)
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  3. Is present-bias a distinctive psychological kind?Natalja Deng, Batoul Hodroj, Andrew J. Latham, Jordan Lee-Tory & Kristie Miller - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Present-bias is the preference, all else being equal, for positive events to be located in the present rather than the non-present, and for negative events to be located in the non-present rather than the present. Very little attention has been given to present-bias in the contemporary literature on time biases. This may be because it is often assumed that present-bias is not a distinctive psychological kind; that what explains people’s being present-biased is just what explains them displaying various other time-biases. (...)
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  4. Are Kinetic and Temporal Continuities Real for Aristotle?Mark Sentesy - 2024 - History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis 26 (2):275-302.
    Aristotle argues that time depends on soul to count it, but adds that motion, which makes time what it is, may be independent of soul. The claim that time depends on soul or mind implies that there is at least one measurable property of natural beings that exists because of the mind’s activity. This paper argues that for Aristotle time depends partly on soul, but more importantly on motion, which defines a continuum. This argument offers a robust metaphysics of time. (...)
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  5. Agentive Explanations of Temporal Passage Experiences and Beliefs.Anthony Bigg, Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller & Shira Yechimovitz - manuscript
    Several philosophers have suggested that certain aspects of people’s experience of agency partly explains why people tend to report that it seems to them, in perceptual experience, as though time robustly passes. In turn, it has been suggested that people come to believe that time robustly passes on the basis of its seeming to them in experience that it does. We argue that what require explaining is not just that people report that it seems to them as though time robustly (...)
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  6. On metaphysical explanations of psychological asymmetries.Natalja Deng - 2022 - In Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack & Alison Fernandes (eds.), Temporal Asymmetries in Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    What is the relation between metaphysical and psychological insights into temporal asymmetries? This chapter examines that question on the basis of a case study concerning the temporal Doppler effect (Caruso, Van Boven, Chin, & Ward, 2013). Caruso et al. propose that future events seem closer than past ones at an equal objective temporal distance because we experience subjective movement through time. I explore ways of interpreting their discussion in the light of the metaphysical debate between A- and B-theorists over whether (...)
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  7. Metaphysics, Sophistry, and Illusion: Toward a Widespread Non-factualism, by Mark Balaguer.Kristie Miller - 2022 - Philosophical Review 131 (3):386-390.
    Neo-positivism is the view that metaphysical questions completely decompose into ordinary empirical questions that can be answered by scientific enquiry (empirical) or ordinary logical or modal questions, which can be answered by appeal to a metaphysically innocent modalism (modal innocence) or questions that are non-factual, that is questions that are such that the world does not provide the question with a determinate answer (nonfactualism). -/- There is much to like about this book. It forcefully, and at times compellingly, presents a (...)
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  8. Метафизика перед выбором.Alex V. Halapsis - 2007 - Грані 56 (6):43-47.
    Метафизика в лице таких выдающихся мыслителей, как Хайдеггер и Гегель, вплотную подошла к проблеме введения времени в фундаментальное описание бытия. Однако указанная проблема так и не была сформулирована в рамках метафизики. Главная причина этого заключается, на наш взгляд, в том, что сама направленность метафизики на постижение вечных принципов подразумевает неизменность последних, их автономию от времени. Основой для такого воззрения выступает максима: «Что вечно, то неизменно, а что изменчиво, то не вечно». Выше мы попытались показать, что эта максима, по меньшей мере, (...)
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  9. Постнеклассическая метафизика истории.Алексей Владиславович Халапсис (ed.) - 2008
    В монографии разработан проект становления постнеклассической метафизики и представлена концептуальная версия постнеклассической метафизики истории. Выявляются метафизические факторы цивилизационного развития, устанавливается характер «работы» общества с прошлым, рассматриваются вопросы о логике исторического процесса и о «законах истории». Также анализируются причины цивилизационных кризисов и очерчиваются возможные пути их разрешения, обсуждаются проблемы социального прогнозирования, исследуются метафизические истоки глобализации, определяются риски и перспективы будущего развития западной цивилизации.
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  10. A Mereologia Temporal Como Uma Questão de Fundamentação.Matheus Diesel Werberich - 2018 - Caderno de Resumos da IX Jornada de Pesquisa Na Pós-Graduação Em Filosofia da UFSM.
    É uma prática comum na metafísica contemporânea qualificar a discussão entre o tridimensionalismo e o quadridimensionalismo como uma questão acerca da existência de partes temporais. Enquanto que o tridimensionalismo não permite que as partes temporais existam, de tal forma que os objetos seriam totalmente presentes em todos os tempos nos quais eles existem, o quadridimensionalismo requer que esses objetos tenham partes temporais. Essa maneira de caracterizar o debate parte do ponto de vista da metaontologia quineana, segundo a qual as questões (...)
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  11. The Moving Spotlight: An Essay on Time and Ontology, by Ross Cameron: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. x + 219, £35, $US60. [REVIEW]Maureen Donnelly - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (4):813-816.
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  12. Un tempo oltre la storia: inconscio, après-coup e genealogia in psicoanalisi.Fabio Vergine - 2017 - L'inconscio. Rivista Italiana di Filosofia E Psicoanalisi 2018 (4):161-185.
    To the origin of psychoanalysis, in the thought of his founder, Sigmund Freud, the unconscious is properly timeless. In this work we will analyze the concept of Real in Jacques Lacan's thought, and at the same time we will try to understand the functioning of après-coup temporality on the relationship between the time of trauma and the time of symptom. Doing this, we will try to answer an essential question: if the concept of Real is the key concept of last (...)
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  13. La philosophie de la physique sans le temps.Alexandre Guay - 2018 - In Joseph Famerée & Paulo Rodrigues (eds.), The Genesis of concepts and the confrontation of rationalities: Theology, Philosophy, Science. pp. 105-121.
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  14. Review of Ross Cameron: The Moving Spotlight: An Essay on Time and Ontology. [REVIEW]Daniel Deasy - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy 113 (9):472-477.
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  15. Complicated Presence: Heidegger and the Postmetaphysical Unity of Being.Jussi Backman - 2015 - Albany: State University of New York Press.
    From its Presocratic beginnings, Western philosophy concerned itself with a quest for unity both in terms of the systematization of knowledge and as a metaphysical search for a unity of being—two trends that can be regarded as converging and culminating in Hegel’s system of absolute idealism. Since Hegel, however, the philosophical quest for unity has become increasingly problematic. Jussi Backman returns to that question in this book, examining the place of the unity of being in the work of Heidegger. Backman (...)
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  16. Why Time is Not a Natural Phenomenon.Samuel Blankson - 1997
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  17. El Ser y la Esencia. [REVIEW]Etienne Gilson - 1951 - Sapientia 6 (21):240.
    En lugar de explicar la potencia por el acto (la esencia por la existencia), nos sentimos inclinados a explicar el acto por la potencia. Habría que hacer filosofía basándonos en lo que vemos, no en lo que suponemos. -/- Pero no sólo la mente humana es causa de este reduccionismo. El ente mismo podría ser responsable, porque si bien el ente es concebible sin la existencia actual, el ser no lo es sino unido a un ente. De ahí la fatal (...)
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  18. On Points.Raymond Tallis - 2011 - Philosophy Now 87:48-49.
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  19. The Past and Future of Medieval Studies. [REVIEW]Gabrielle Spiegel - 1995 - The Medieval Review 2.
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  20. On the Philosophy of Technology, Past and Future.Joseph C. Pitt - 1995 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 1 (1-2):18-22.
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  21. The Past and Future of Medieval Studies. [REVIEW]Charles Wood - 1996 - Speculum 71 (3):686-689.
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Eternalism
  1. The Moving Spotlight.Ross Cameron & Daniel Deasy - forthcoming - In Nina Emery (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Time. Routledge.
    We examine moving spotlight theories of time: theories according to which there are past and future events and an objective present moment. In Section 1, we briefly discuss the origins of the view. In Section 2, we describe the traditional moving spotlight view, which we understand as an ‘enriched’ B-theory of time, and raise some problems for that view. In the next two sections, we describe versions of the moving spotlight view that we think are better and which solve those (...)
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  2. Presentism and Eternalism.David Ingram - forthcoming - In Nina Emery (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Time. Routledge.
    Presentism and Eternalism are competing views about the ontological and temporal structure of the world, introduced and demarcated by their answers to questions about what exists and whether what exists changes. The goal of this chapter is to give the reader a clear understanding of Presentism and Eternalism, and a sense of some considerations used to critically assess the views by briefly rehearsing some of the main philosophical problems facing them.
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  3. Severino as a Temporarist Static Eternalist.Ernesto Graziani & Francesco Orilia - 2023 - Eternity and Contradiction. Journal of Fundamental Ontology 5 (8):99-120.
    We distinguish three debates within current analytic philosophy of time: a first one regarding the passage of time, where static and dynamic views oppose each other; a second one concerning the existence or non-existence of temporal entities, where presentism and eternalism are main contenders; a third one about permanence, where the conflict is between permanentism and temporarism. We then consider how Severino's Parmenidean view may be related to such debates and argue that it is best viewed as a kind of (...)
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  4. Time and the World: Every Thing and Then Some.M. Oreste Fiocco - forthcoming - New York: Oxford University Press.
    This is a book about everything and how anything whatsoever happens. By answering the question what is a thing?, the book reveals what it is to exist, what any being at all is. Such profound matters require a special method of inquiry. The method employed herein – original inquiry – begins with no assumptions about reality. It is, then, a method independent of any figure, trend, or tradition in the history of philosophy. Via this method, one simply confronts all this, (...)
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  5. Existence is No Thing: Existents, Transience and Fixity.M. Oreste Fiocco - 2023 - Eternity and Contradiction. Journal of Fundamental Ontology 5 (8):43-68.
    Considering whether existence, i.e., being, is a thing might seem like the height of aimless metaphysical chin stroking. However, the issue—specifically, whether existence is a quality—is significant, bearing on how reality, this all-encompassing totality, is. On one view, reality at large is ontologically fixed, the sum total of things does not (and cannot) vary; on another view, reality is ontologically transient, the sum total of things varies. I first show that if existence is a thing, that reality is ontologically fixed (...)
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  6. Review of Patrick Todd, The Open Future. Why Future Contingents are All False. [REVIEW]David P. Hunt - forthcoming - Zeitschrift Für Theologie Und Philosophie.
  7. Time and Modality.Samuele Iaquinto - forthcoming - In Nina Emery (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Time. Routledge.
    Time and modality show remarkable similarities. Each of the most discussed theories in philosophy of time finds an analogous counterpart in modal metaphysics, suggesting that the parallel between the two notions is metaphysically deep. This chapter offers a brief overview of their analogies. Section 1 addresses the analogy between presentism and actualism. Section 2 explores the analogy between non-presentist theories and possibilism. Section 3 discusses the analogy between temporal and modal persistence.
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  8. The Great Loop: From Conformal Cyclic Cosmology to Aeon Monism.Baptiste Le Bihan - 2024 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie.
    Penrose's conformal cyclic cosmology describes the cosmos as a collection of successive universes, the so-called aeons. The beginning and ending of our universe are directly connected to two other, anterior and posterior, universes. Penrose considers but rules out a different interpretation of conformal cyclic cosmology: that the beginning of our universe is connected to its own end in a cosmic loop. The paper argues that the view, aeon monism, should be regarded as a natural interpretation of conformal cyclic cosmology and (...)
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  9. Productive Laws in Relativistic Spacetimes.Chris Dorst - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
    One of the most intuitive views about the metaphysics of laws of nature is Tim Maudlin's idea of a Fundamental Law of Temporal Evolution. So-called FLOTEs are primitive elements of the universe that produce later states from earlier states. While FLOTEs are at home in traditional Newtonian and non-relativistic quantum mechanical theories (not to mention our pre-theoretic conception of the world), I consider here whether they can be made to work with relativity. In particular, shifting to relativistic spacetimes poses two (...)
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  10. The Passage of Time as Causal Succession of Events.Avril Styrman - 2023 - Journal of Philosophy 120 (12):681-697.
    This work introduces a causal explanation of the passage of time, and contrasts it with rival explanations. In the causal explanation, laws of physics are shown to entail that events are in causal succession, and the passage of time is defined as their causal succession. The causal explanation is coupled with phenomenology of the passage of time, and contrasted with the project of making sense of the idea that time does not pass.
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  11. Common-sense temporal ontology: an experimental study.Ernesto Graziani, Francesco Orilia, Elena Capitani & Roberto Burro - 2023 - Synthese 202 (6):1-39.
    Temporal ontology is the philosophical debate on the existence of the past and the future. It features a three-way confrontation between supporters of presentism (the present exists, the past and the future do not), pastism (the past and the present exist, the future does not), and eternalism (the past, the present, and the future all exist). Most philosophers engaged in this debate believe that presentism is much more in agreement with common sense than the rival views; moreover, most of them (...)
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  12. The Transcendental Phenomenological Argument against Eternalism.László Bernáth & Daniel Haydar Inan - 2023 - Metaphysica 24 (2):259-275.
    In this paper, we argue against eternalism on the basis of certain phenomenological considerations regarding our experiential life in a relatively novel way. Contrary to well-known phenomenological arguments that attempt to refute tenseless theories of time, our argument that we call the Transcendental Phenomenological Argument against Eternalism is against both tenseless and tensed versions of eternalism. The argument is based on the fact that one experiences a phenomenologicalsuccessionof experiences, and it shows that perdurantist forms of eternalism have to either deny (...)
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  13. Heraclitean Flux Metaphysics.Andrew Dennis Bassford - 2023 - Metaphysica: International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics 24 (2):299-322.
    This essay offers an original interpretation and defense of the doctrine of flux, as it is presented in Plato’s Theaetetus. The methodology of the paper’s analysis is in the style of rational reconstruction, and it is highly analytic in scope, in the sense that I will focus on the text itself, and only on certain parts of it too, while ignoring the rest of Plato’s extensive corpus, and without worrying about whether, how, and to what extent the interpretation of the (...)
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  14. On Explaining Temporally Asymmetric Experiences.David Braddon-Mitchell & Kristie Miller - forthcoming - Australasian Philosophical Review.
    Ismael aims for an understanding of the nature of an embedded perspective of agents in a world. If successful, this would explain a cluster of ways in which from an embedded perspective, we experience the world in an array of temporally asymmetric ways. Moreover, these are ways that have led many philosophers to rather metaphysically inflationary views about the nature of time, according to which time itself really is dynamical, and is characterized by the movement of an objectively (i.e., non-perspectival) (...)
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  15. The Modal Moving Spotlight Theory.Daniel Deasy - 2022 - Mind 131 (524):1195-1215.
    Say that the Moving Spotlight Theory (MST) combines the following three theses: A-THEORY : There is an absolute distinction between present and non-present time.
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  16. The Metaphysics of Ockhamism.Andrea Iacona - 2022 - In Alessio Santelli (ed.), Ockhamism and Philosophy of Time: Semantic and Metaphysical Issues concerning Future Contingents. Springer.
    This paper investigates Ockhamism from a metaphysical point of view. Its main point is that the claim that future contingents are true or false is less demanding than usually expected, as it does not require particularly contentious assumptions about the future. First it will be argued that Ockhamism is consistent with a wide range of metaphysical views. Then it will be shown that each of these views leaves room for the claim that the future is open, at least on some (...)
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  17. Center Indifference and Skepticism.David Builes - forthcoming - Noûs.
    Many philosophers have been attracted to a restricted version of the principle of indifference in the case of self-locating belief. Roughly speaking, this principle states that, within any given possible world, one should be indifferent between different hypotheses concerning who one is within that possible world, so long as those hypotheses are compatible with one’s evidence. My first goal is to defend a more precise version of this principle. After responding to several existing criticisms of such a principle, I argue (...)
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  18. Foreknowledge and Fatalism : Why Divine Timelessness Doesn’t Help.Alan R. Rhoda - 2014 - In L. Nathan Oaklander (ed.), Debates in the Metaphysics of Time. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 253-274.
    Argues that divine timelessness is at best irrelevant and at worst counterproductive for addressing the problem of foreknowledge and future contingents.
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  19. Presentism, eternalism and relativity physics.Thomas M. Crisp - 2004 - In William Lane Craig & Quentin Smith (eds.), Einstein, Relativity and Absolute Simultaneity. Routledge. pp. 262-278.
  20. Time: a very short introduction.Jenann Ismael - 2021 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    What is time? What does it mean for time to pass? Is it possible to travel in time? What is the difference between the past and future? Until the work of Newton, these questions were purely topics of philosophical speculation. Since then we've learned a great deal about time, and its study has moved from a subject of philosophical reflection to instead became part of the subject matter of physics. This Very Short Introduction introduces readers to the current physical understanding (...)
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  21. Eternalism.Orlando J. Smith - 1902 - [n. p.]:
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  22. What do VR experiments teach us about time?Andrew J. Latham & Alex Holcombe - 2023 - Frontiers in Psychology 13:1082844.
    Gruber and Smith (2019) have conducted some interesting virtual reality (VR) experiments, but we think that these experiments fail to illuminate why people think that the present is special. Their experiments attempted to test a suggestion by Hartle (2005) that with VR one might construct scenarios in which people experience the same present twice. If that’s possible, then it could give us a reason to think that when we experience the present as being special, that’s not because it’s objectively so. (...)
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  23. Pantheism, Omnisubjectivity, and the Feeling of Temporal Passage.Andrei A. Buckareff - forthcoming - Religions.
    By “pantheism” I mean to pick out a model of God on which God is identical with the totality of existents constitutive of the universe. I assume that, on pantheism, God is an omnispatiotemporal mind who is identical with the universe. I assume that, given divine omnispatiotemporality, God knows everything that can be known in the universe. This includes having knowledge de se of the minds of every conscious creature. Hence, if God has knowledge de se of the minds of (...)
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  24. Five New Arguments for The Dynamic Theory of Time.Ned Markosian - 2022 - Philosophical Perspectives 36 (1):158-181.
    According to The Static Theory of Time, time is like space in various ways, and there is no such thing as the passage of time. According to The Dynamic Theory of Time, on the other hand, time is very different from space, and the passage of time is an all-too-real phenomenon. This paper first offers some suggestions about how we should understand these two theories, and then introduces five new arguments for The Dynamic Theory of Time.
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  25. Truthmaking.Jamin Asay - 2023 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Truthmaking is the metaphysical exploration of the idea that what is true depends upon what exists. Truthmaker theorists argue about what the truthmaking relation involves, which truths require truthmakers, and what those truthmakers are. This Element covers the dominant views on these core issues in truthmaking. It also explores some key metaphysical topics and debates that are usefully approached by employing the tools of truthmaker theory: the debate between presentists and eternalists over the existence of entities from the past, and (...)
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  26. Temporal experience and the present in George P. Adams’ eternalism.A. R. J. Fisher - 2023 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 31 (2):355-376.
    In the early twentieth century, many philosophers in America thought that time should be taken seriously in one way or another. George P. Adams (1882-1961) argued that the past, present and future are all real but only the present is actual. I call this theory ‘actualist eternalism’. In this paper, I articulate his novel brand of eternalism as one piece of his metaphysical system and I explain how he argued for the view in light of the best explanations of temporal (...)
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  27. A Humean Non-Humeanism.David Builes - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):1031-1048.
    How should we account for the extraordinary regularity in the world? Humeans and Non-Humeans sharply disagree. According to Non-Humeans, the world behaves in an extraordinarily regular way because of certain necessary connections in nature. However, Humeans have thought that Non-Humean views are metaphysically objectionable. In particular, there are two general metaphysical principles that Humeans have found attractive that are incompatible with all existing versions of Non-Humeanism. My goal in this paper is to develop a novel version of Non-Humeanism that is (...)
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  28. Commentary: Physical time within human time.Kristie Miller & Danqi Wang - 2022 - Frontiers in Psychology 13.
    Gruber et al. (2022) and Buonomano and Rovelli (Forthcoming) aim to render Q18 consistent the picture of time delivered to us by physics, with the way time seems to us in experience. Their general approach is similar; they take the picture of our world given to us in physics, a picture on which there is no global “moving” present and hence no robust temporal flow, and attempt to explain why things nevertheless seem to us as they do, given that our (...)
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  29. An Empirical Argument for Presentism.David Builes & Michele Odisseas Impagnatiello - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
    According to orthodoxy, our best physical theories strongly support Eternalism over Presentism. Our goal is to argue against this consensus, by arguing that a certain overlooked aspect of our best physical theories strongly supports Presentism over Eternalism.
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