Temporal Ontology

Edited by Sam Baron (Australian Catholic University)
Assistant editors: David Ingram, James Darcy
About this topic
Summary Temporal ontology is home to two central issues in the philosophy of time. The first issue concerns the ontological status of the past, present and future. The debate here is between 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 typically called eternalist views about time, and are contrasted with the most severe form of conservativeness about temporal ontology: presentism, according to which only present entities exist. The second broad issue in the category of temporal ontology concerns the relationship between the future and agency. If, as eternalists maintain, the future exists, then arguably all of the facts about the future are already setltled. 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.
Key works The locus classicus for contemporary presentism is Bigelow 1996. Bourne 2006 is a book-length defense of presentism, which is a must-read on the topic. Putnam 1967 presents the chief motivation for eternalism, namely that it is implied by the special theory of relativity, an issue that comes to the fore in Dieks 2006. 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. Anscombe 1956 is a crucial paper on Aristotlean arguments in favour of fatalism, and Barnes & Cameron 2008 and Barnes & Cameron 2011 represent the state of the art on temporal ontology and fatalism. Markosian 1995 forges a link between the open future and indeterminism about the laws of nature. Determinism about the laws of nature is usefully discussed in Churchland 1981 and Unger 1977.
Introductions Encyclopedia articles include Markosian 2010, Rice 2008, Hoefer 2008 and Le Poidevin 2008.
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  1. Perspectival Ontology + McTaggart = an AdS/CFT?Paul Merriam - manuscript
    The modest ambition of this short note is to point out a plausible route from a *perspectival ontology* and McTaggart’s *AB-spacetime* to an AdS/CFT correspondence. There are several minor arguments that would need to be filled in for this route to succeed.
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  2. 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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  3. Постнеклассическая метафизика истории.Алексей Владиславович Халапсис - 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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. Louvain, Belgique: pp. 105-121.
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  8. 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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  9. Complicated Presence: Heidegger and the Postmetaphysical Unity of Being.Jussi Backman - 2015 - 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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  10. The Past and the Future.Alan Bullock - 1982 - Upa.
    Alan Bullock demonstrates the continuity of mankind's thought and concerns from the historical past, through the troubled and often confusing present into the almost invisible future. This continuum offers us a basis for achieving understanding and perspective, for relating past, present and future. Without seeing this relationship, the moment of our lifetime must seem isolated and meaningless. Co-pubished with the Aspen Institute.
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  11. Why Time is Not a Natural Phenomenon.Samuel K. K. Blankson - 1997
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  12. Shoobridge-Waldstein, Herculaneum, Past, Present and Future.M. Knapp - 1908 - Classical World: A Quarterly Journal on Antiquity 2:157.
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  13. 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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  14. Tallis in Wonderland: Call No Event Future Until It Is Past.Raymond Tallis - 2011 - Philosophy Now 86:48-49.
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  15. The Past and Future of Medieval Studies. [REVIEW]Gabrielle Spiegel - 1995 - The Medieval Review 2.
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  16. 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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  17. The Past and Future of Medieval Studies. [REVIEW]Charles Wood - 1996 - Speculum 71 (3):686-689.
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Eternalism
  1. Momentum and Context.Hans Halvorson - manuscript
    A sentence's meaning may depend on the state of motion of the speaker. I argue that this context-sensitivity blocks the inference from special relativity to four-dimensionalism.
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  2. Théorie des cordes, gravité quantique à boucles et éternalisme.Baptiste Le Bihan - forthcoming - Métaphysique du Temps.
    L'éternalisme, la thèse selon laquelle les entités que nous catégorisons comme étant passées, présentes et futures existent tout autant, est la meilleure approche ontologique de l'existence temporelle qui soit en accord avec les théories de la relativité restreinte et de la relativité générale. Cependant, les théories de la relativité restreinte et générale ne sont pas fondamentales si bien que plusieurs programmes de recherche tentent de trouver une théorie plus fondamentale de la gravité quantique rassemblant tous les enseignements de la physique (...)
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  3. An Empirical Investigation of the Role of Direction in Our Concept of Time.Andrew James Latham, Kristie Miller & James Norton - forthcoming - Acta Analytica.
    This paper empirically investigates one aspect of the folk concept of time (amongst US residents), by testing how the presence or absence of directedness impacts judgements about whether there is time in a world. Experiment 1 found that dynamists (those who think the actual world contains an A-series), showed significantly higher levels of agreement that there is time in dynamically directed (growing block) worlds than in non-dynamical non-directed (C-theory) worlds. Comparing our results to those of Latham et al. (ms), we (...)
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  4. A memória episódica, o problema da cotemporalidade, e o senso comum.César Schirmer Dos Santos - forthcoming - In Gerson Albuquerque de Araújo Neto & Giovanni Rolla (eds.), Ciência e Conhecimento. Teresina: Editora da Universidade Federal do Piauí. pp. 101-123.
    Os realistas diretos sobre a memória episódica alegam que um sujeito que lembra está em contato direto com um evento passado. No entanto, como seria possível estar em contato direto com um evento que deixou de existir? Este é o assim-chamado problema da cotemporalidade. A solução padrão para este problema, a qual foi proposta por Sven Bernecker, consiste em distinguir entre, por um lado, a ocorrência de um evento, e, por outro lado, a existência de um evento, de modo que (...)
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  5. String Theory, Loop Quantum Gravity and Eternalism.Baptiste Le Bihan - 2020 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10 (2):1-22.
    Eternalism, the view that what we regard locally as being located in the past, the present and the future equally exists, is the best ontological account of temporal existence in line with special and general relativity. However, special and general relativity are not fundamental theories and several research programs aim at finding a more fundamental theory of quantum gravity weaving together all we know from relativistic physics and quantum physics. Interestingly, some of these approaches assert that time is not fundamental. (...)
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  6. Time as Narrative: An Ontological Daydream.Marcos Wagner Da Cunha - manuscript
    A thought experiment on the ultimate non-essence of Time.
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  7. From Spacetime to Space and Time: A Reply to Markosian.Baptiste Le Bihan - forthcoming - Analysis.
    In a recent article, Ned Markosian gives an argument against four-dimensionalism understood as the view that time is one of four identical dimensions that constitute a single four-dimensional manifold. In this paper, I show that Markosian attacks a straw man as his argument targets a theory known to be false on empirical grounds. Four-dimensionalism rightly conceived in no way entails that time is identical to space. I then address two objections raised by Markosian against four-dimensionalism rightly conceived.
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  8. Neither Presentism nor Eternalism.Carlo Rovelli - 2019 - Foundations of Physics 49 (12):1325-1335.
    Is reality three-dimensional and becoming real, or is reality four-dimensional and becoming illusory? Both options raise difficulties. I argue that we do not need to be trapped by this dilemma. There is a third possibility: reality has a more complex temporal structure than either of these two naive options. Fundamental becoming is real, but local and unoriented. A notion of present is well defined, but only locally and in the context of approximations.
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  9. The Common Present in a Block Universe.Yuri Balashov - 2019 - Seminário Lógica No Avião.
    Our present experiences are strikingly different from past and future ones. Every philosophy of time must explain this difference. It has long been argued that A-theorists can do it better than B-theorists because their explanation is most natural and straightforward: present experiences appear to be special because they are special. I do not wish to dispute one aspect of this advantage. But I contend that the general perception of this debate is seriously incomplete as it tends to conflate two rather (...)
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  10. Self‐Locating Evidence and the Metaphysics of Time.David Builes - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (2):478-490.
    I argue that different views in the metaphysics of time make different observational predictions in both classical and relativistic cases. Because different views in the metaphysics of time differ over which facts are merely indexical facts, they make different observational predictions about certain self-locating propositions. I argue for this thesis by distinguishing the three main updating procedures that apply in cases of self-locating uncertainty, and I present a series of cases which cumulatively show that every one of these updating procedures (...)
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  11. Qu'est-ce que le temps ?Baptiste Le Bihan - 2019 - Paris: Vrin.
    La philosophie contemporaine du temps voit s’affronter deux conceptions du temps : celle du devenir qui identifie la réalité naturelle à un présent en constant renouvellement et celle de l’univers-bloc qui assimile la réalité naturelle à un espace-temps étendu dans quatre dimensions. Cette dernière approche implique notamment que les événements qui nous semblent passés et futurs sont tout aussi réels que les événements présents et que les êtres humains, bien que mortels, sont des êtres éternels. L’auteur défend cette théorie de (...)
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  12. Primitive Directionality and Diachronic Grounding.Naoyuki Kajimoto, Kristie Miller & James Norton - forthcoming - Acta Analytica:1-17.
    Eternalists believe that there is no ontological difference between the past, present and future. Thus, a challenge arises: in virtue of what does time have a direction? Some eternalists (including Maudlin (2007), Oaklander (2012) and Tegtmeier (1996; 2009; 2014; 2016)) argue that the direction of time is primitive. A natural response to positing primitive directionality is the suspicion that said posit is too mysterious to do any explanatory work. The aim of this paper is to relieve primitive directionality of some (...)
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  13. What Quine (and Carnap) Might Say About Contemporary Metaphysics of Time.Natalja Deng - forthcoming - In Frederique Janssen-Lauret (ed.), Quine, Structure, and Ontology. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter explores some of the relations between Quine’s and Carnap’s metaontological stances on the one hand, and contemporary work in the metaphysics of time, on the other. Contemporary metaphysics of time, like analytic metaphysics in general, grew out of the revival of the discipline that Quine’s critique of the logical empiricists (such as Carnap) made possible. At the same time, the metaphysics of time has, in some respects, strayed far from its Quinean roots. This chapter examines some likely Quinean (...)
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  14. Contingencies within Spacetime.Baptiste Le Bihan - 2015 - Dissertation, University of Rennes 1
    I begin by giving reasons to accept the block-universe view, the strongly supported by physics view that we live in a four-dimensional world. According to it, the past and the future are as real as the present. As a result, it seems that the future is determined in the sense that what will be the case will necessarily be the case. In the dissertation, I examine whether we have to accept this consequence. I show that we do not have to (...)
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  15. Temporal Existence and Temporal Location.Fabrice Correia & Sven Rosenkranz - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    We argue that sensitivity to the distinction between the tensed notion of being something and the tensed notion of being located at the present time serves as a good antidote to confusions in debates about time and existence, in particular in the debate about how to characterise presentism, and saves us the trouble of going through unnecessary epicycles. Both notions are frequently expressed using the tensed verb ‘to exist’, making it systematically ambiguous. It is a commendable strategy to avoid using (...)
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  16. Naïve Realism, Seeing Stars, and Perceiving the Past.Alex Moran - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (1):202-232.
    It seems possible to see a star that no longer exists. Yet it also seems right to say that what no longer exists cannot be seen. We therefore face a puzzle, the traditional answer to which involves abandoning naïve realism in favour of a sense datum view. In this article, however, I offer a novel exploration of the puzzle within a naïve realist framework. As will emerge, the best option for naïve realists is to embrace an eternalist view of time, (...)
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  17. L'éternité sans le temps.Baptiste Le Bihan - 2018 - Revue Philosophique De Louvain 116 (3):441-462.
    L'éternalisme implique une forme exotique d'éternité : toute entité, aussi éphémère soit-elle et quelle que soit sa localisation dans le temps, existe relativement à toute autre localisation temporelle. Cet essai vise, premièrement, à défendre l'éternalisme en exhibant les difficultés rédhibitoires du présentisme et du non-futurisme, et deuxièmement à examiner de quelle manière l'éternalisme pourrait être amendé à l'aune d'une affirmation que l'on trouve sous la plume de certains physiciens, à savoir que, fondamentalement, le temps n'existe pas. La disparition du temps (...)
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  18. L'éternité sans le temps.Baptiste Le Bihan - 2018 - Revue Philosophique De Louvain 116 (3):441-462.
    L'éternalisme implique une forme exotique d'éternité : toute entité, aussi éphémère soit-elle et quelle que soit sa localisation dans le temps, existe relativement à toute autre localisation temporelle. Cet essai vise, premièrement, à défendre l'éternalisme en exhibant les difficultés rédhibitoires du présentisme et du non-futurisme, et deuxièmement à examiner de quelle manière l'éternalisme pourrait être amendé à l'aune d'une affirmation que l'on trouve sous la plume de certains physiciens, à savoir que, fondamentalement, le temps n'existe pas. La disparition du temps (...)
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  19. The Unique Groundability of Temporal Facts.John Cusbert & Kristie Miller - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 97 (2):410-432.
    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 (...)
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  20. Imprints in Time: Towards a Moderately Robust Past.Michael Longenecker - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (10):2429-2446.
    Presentism says that only present objects exist. But the view has trouble grounding past-tensed truths like “dinosaurs existed”. Standard Eternalism grounds those truths by positing the existence of past objects—like dinosaurs. But Standard Eternalism conflicts with the intuition that there is genuine change—the intuition that there once were dinosaurs and no longer are any. I offer a novel theory of time—‘The Imprint’—that does a better job preserving both the grounding and genuine change intuitions. The Imprint says that the past and (...)
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  21. Episodic Memory, the Cotemporality Problem, and Common Sense.César Schirmer Dos Santos - 2018 - Essays in Philosophy 19 (2).
    Direct realists about episodic memory claim that a rememberer has direct contact with a past event. But how is it possible to be acquainted with an event that ceased to exist? That’s the so-called cotemporality problem. The standard solution, proposed by Sven Bernecker, is to distinguish between the occurrence of an event and the existence of an event: an event ceases to occur without ceasing to exist. That’s the eternalist solution for the cotemporality problem. Nevertheless, some philosophers of memory claim (...)
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  22. Reflection on the dairy industrial modernization in S. Miguel (1941-1946). An experimental philosophy essay on the ontology of time.Miguel Soares de Albergaria - 2018 - Omnia 8 (2).
    This paper presents a case study for the elucidation of historical time. Specifically, it configures the sudden modernization of dairy industry in an island whose other historic dimensions shall have however remained relatively stable, S. Miguel (Azores), in view of a complete explanation of this process. On the basis of such explanation, certain inferences, according to Hempel's deductive model, are considered legitimate, on the theoretical formulation of time that can frame such a process. Namely, proposing the theses of A-theory (McTaggart) (...)
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  23. Time, Metaphysics Of.Natalja Deng - forthcoming - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Metaphysics is the part of philosophy that asks questions about the nature of reality – about what there is, and what it is like. The metaphysics of time is the part of the philosophy of time that asks questions about the nature of temporal reality. One central such question is that of whether time passes or flows, or whether it has a dynamic aspect.
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  24. Skow on Robust Passage and The Moving Spotlight Theory.Daniel Deasy - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (7):1791-1805.
    Bradford Skow’s Objective Becoming (2015) is a strikingly original and philosophically rich contribution to contemporary philosophy of time. The book rewards very careful study, and is surely a ‘must-read’ for anyone with an interest in current debates concerning time and change. Perhaps the most immediately compelling aspect of the book is its leading question: if I [Skow] didn’t already accept the ‘block universe theory’ (BU),1 which theory of time would I defend? Skow’s surprising (and, from my perspective, welcome!) answer is (...)
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  25. Presentism, Eternalism and Where Things Are Located.Emanuel Viebahn - forthcoming - Synthese:1-12.
    In several recent papers, Daniel Deasy has argued that the presentism-eternalism debate is unclear and should be abandoned. According to Deasy, there is no way of spelling out the predicate ‘is present’ that leads to a satisfactory definition of presentism: on some interpretations, presentism turns out to be compatible with eternalism, on others, it is clearly false or unacceptable for other reasons. The aim of this paper is to show that this line of argument should be resisted: if the predicate (...)
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  26. The Truth About Osmo.E. J. M. Marques - 2017 - Logic and Philosophy of Time: Themes From Prior, Volume 1.
    (...)
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  27. What is Temporal Ontology?Natalja Deng - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (3):793-807.
    Temporal ontology is the part of ontology involving the rival positions of presentism, eternalism, and the growing block theory. While this much is clear, it’s surprisingly difficult to elucidate the substance of the disagreement between presentists and eternalists. Certain events happened that are not happening now; what is it to disagree about whether these events exist? In spite of widespread suspicion concerning the status and methods of analytic metaphysics, skeptics’ doubts about this debate have not generally been heeded, neither by (...)
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  28. Presentness, Where Art Thou? Self-Locating Belief and the Moving Spotlight.Kristie Miller - 2017 - Analysis 77 (4):777-788.
    Ross Cameron's The Moving Spotlight argues that of the three most common dynamical theories of time – presentism, the growing block theory and the moving spotlight theory – his version of the MST is the best. This paper focuses on Cameron's response the epistemic objection. It considers two of Cameron's arguments: that a standard version of the MST can successfully resist the epistemic objection, and that Cameron's preferred version of the MST has an additional avenue open to it for resisting (...)
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  29. Two Fundamentally Different Perspectives on Time.Jesse Mulder - 2017 - Axiomathes 27 (3):295-320.
    Frege taught us how to understand one form of predication: an atemporal one. There is also a different, temporal form of predication, which I briefly introduce. Accordingly, there are two fundamentally different approaches to time: a reductive one, aiming to account for time in terms of Frege’s atemporal predication, and a non-reductive one, insisting that the temporal form of predication is sui generis, and that time is to be understood in its terms. I do not directly argue for or against (...)
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  30. Time Passages.Miller Kristie - 2017 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 24 (3-4):149-176.
    Temporal dynamists argue that we should believe that there exists temporal passage because there being passage is the best explanation for the presence of our temporal phenomenology. Some non-dynamists have countered that the presence of passage makes no difference to our temporal phenomenology, and consequently that temporal phenomenology cannot be evidence that there is passage. This paper attempts to bolster this non-dynamist response by offering new arguments for the claim that the presence of passage makes no difference to our phenomenology.
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  31. The Rights of Future Persons and the Ontology of Time.Aaron M. Griffith - 2017 - Journal of Social Philosophy 48 (1):58-70.
    Many are committed to the idea that the present generation has obligations to future generations, for example, obligations to preserve the environment and certain natural resources for those generations. However, some philosophers want to explain why we have these obligations in terms of correlative rights that future persons have against persons in the present. Attributing such rights to future persons is controversial, for there seem to be compelling arguments against the position. According to the “nonexistence” argument, future persons cannot have (...)
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  32. The Unique Groundability of Temporal Facts.John Cusbert & Kristie Millier - 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 (...)
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  33. The A‐Theory of Time, The B‐Theory of Time, and ‘Taking Tense Seriously’.Dean W. Zimmerman - 2005 - Dialectica 59 (4):401-457.
    The paper has two parts: First, I describe a relatively popular thesis in the philosophy of propositional attitudes, worthy of the name ‘taking tense seriously’; and I distinguish it from a family of views in the metaphysics of time, namely, the A‐theories. Once the distinction is in focus, a skeptical worry arises. Some A‐theorists maintain that the difference between past, present, and future, is to be drawn in terms of what exists: growing‐block theorists eschew ontological commitment to future entities; presentists, (...)
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