The Open Future

Edited by Sam Baron (University of Western Australia)
Assistant editor: James Darcy (University of Virginia)
About this topic
Summary The open future category deals with issues pertaining to the fixity of the future. Are propositions about the future true now? Or do such propositions lack a truth-value? These questions connect up to important debates surrounding free-will and deliberation. The open future resides within the temporal ontology category as it has been argued that the openness of the future hangs on the existence of the future. Accordingly, positions such as presentism and the growing block theory are touted as better according with the openness of the future because of their (comparatively) thrifty ontologies.
Key works

Anscombe 1956 contains an early contemporary examination of Aristotle’s problem of future contingents, while MacFarlane 2003 offers a recent and influential solution to the problem based on a context of assessment. Dummett 1964 focuses on an argument concerning the asymmetry between between past and future, and contains an argument against fatalism. Belnap 1992 argues for a blend of relativity and indeterminism, and Belnap & Green 1994 argues for an open future as rooted in a branching structure of time without a distinguished ‘actual’ future branch. Barnes & Cameron 2009 aim to show that the open future is compatible with determinism about the laws of nature as well as an unrestricted principle of bivalence.

Introductions See the collected papers in Correia & Iacona 2013. See also Øhrstrøm & Hasle 2011.
Related categories

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  1. Contemporary Concepts of Time and the Idea of God. [REVIEW]E. M. A. - 1935 - Journal of Philosophy 32 (12):335-335.
  2. 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, (...)
  3. Contrary to Time Conditionals in Talmudic Logic.M. Abraham, D. M. Gabbay & U. Schild - 2012 - Artificial Intelligence and Law 20 (2):145-179.
    We consider conditionals of the form A ⇒ B where A depends on the future and B on the present and past. We examine models for such conditional arising in Talmudic legal cases. We call such conditionals contrary to time conditionals.Three main aspects will be investigated: Inverse causality from future to past, where a future condition can influence a legal event in the past (this is a man made causality).Comparison with similar features in modern law.New types of temporal logics arising (...)
  4. 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 (...)
  5. The Arabic Sea Battle: Al-Fārābī on the Problem of Future Contingents.Peter Adamson - 2006 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 88 (2):163-188.
    Ancient commentators like Ammonius and Boethius tried to solve Aristotle's “sea battle argument” in On Interpretation 9 by saying that statements about future contingents are “indefinitely” true or false. They were followed by al-Fārābī in his commentary on On Interpretation. The article sets out two possible interpretations of what “indefinitely” means here, and shows that al-Fārābī actually has both conceptions: one applied in his interpretation of Aristotle, and another that he is forced into by the problem of divine foreknowledge. It (...)
  6. A Three-Valued Temporal Logic for Future Contingents.Seiki Akama, Yasunori Nagata & Chikatoshi Yamada - 2007 - Logique Et Analyse 198:99-111.
  7. Present Truth and Future Contingency.Rogers Albritton - 1957 - Philosophical Review 66 (1):29-46.
  8. Bacc to the Future?Nick Alchin - 2003 - The Philosophers' Magazine 23 (23):15-16.
  9. Fatalism and Future Contingents.Giacomo Andreoletti - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    In this paper I address issues related to the problem of future contingents and the metaphysical doctrine of fatalism. Two classical responses to the problem of future contingents are the third truth value view and the all-false view. According to the former, future contingents take a third truth value which goes beyond truth and falsity. According to the latter, they are all false. I here illustrate and discuss two ways to respectively argue for those two views. Both ways are similar (...)
  10. Aristotle and the Sea Battle.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1956 - Mind 65 (257):1-15.
  11. Future Contingents and Determinism in Aristotle's De Interpretatione IX: Some Logical Aspects of the So-Called Second Oldest Interpretation.Lennart Åqvist - 2003 - Logique Et Analyse 46 (181):13-48.
  12. Future Freedom and the Fixity of Truth: Closing the Road to Limited Foreknowledge Open Theism. [REVIEW]Benjamin H. Arbour - 2013 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 73 (3):189-207.
    Unlike versions of open theism that appeal to the alethic openness of the future, defenders of limited foreknowledge open theism (hereafter LFOT) affirm that some propositions concerning future contingents are presently true. Thus, there exist truths that are unknown to God, so God is not omniscient simpliciter. LFOT requires modal definitions of divine omniscience such that God knows all truths that are logically knowable. Defenders of LFOT have yet to provide an adequate response to Richard Purtill’s argument that fatalism logically (...)
  13. Does God Have a Future?Karen Armstrong - forthcoming - Techne.
  14. Looking to the Future.Mahnoush Arsanjani, Jacob Cogan, Robert Sloane & Siegfried Wiessner (eds.) - 2010 - M. Nijhoff.
  15. Truth and the Open Future: The Solution to Aristotle's Sea Battle Challenge with the Principle of Bivalence Retained.Milos Arsenijevic - unknown
    The talk deals with Aristotle’s famous sea-battle problem concerning the truth values of sentences about contingent future events: If an utterance of the sentence “There will be a sea battle tomorrow” is true, then it seems that it is determined that there will be a sea battle tomorrow. For otherwise, how could the utterance be true? If, however, an utterance of the sentence “There will be a sea battle tomorrow” is false, then it seems that it is determined that there (...)
  16. Determinism, Indeterminism and the Flow of Time.Miloš Arsenijević - 2002 - Erkenntnis 56 (2):123 - 150.
    A set of axioms implicitly defining the standard, though not instant-based but interval-based, time topology is used as a basis to build a temporal modal logic of events. The whole apparatus contains neither past, present, and future operators nor indexicals, but only B-series relations and modal operators interpreted in the standard way. Determinism and indeterminism are then introduced into the logic of events via corresponding axioms. It is shown that, if determinism and indeterminism are understood in accordance with their core (...)
  17. 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 (...)
  18. The Creation of an Invented Future: An Inquiry Into G.H. Mead’s Relatively-Open Future with Special Reference to Sociological Theory.Patrick J. Baert - 1989 - International Philosophical Quarterly 29 (3):319-338.
  19. 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. (...)
  20. Predetermination and Tense Probabilism.Stephen J. Barker - 1998 - Analysis 58 (4):290–296.
  21. 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 (...)
  22. The Open Future: Bivalence, Determinism and Ontology.Elizabeth Barnes & Ross Cameron - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (2):291-309.
    In this paper we aim to disentangle the thesis that the future is open from theses that often get associated or even conflated with it. In particular, we argue that the open future thesis is compatible with both the unrestricted principle of bivalence and determinism with respect to the laws of nature. We also argue that whether or not the future (and indeed the past) is open has no consequences as to the existence of (past and) future ontology.
  23. Back to the Open Future1.Elizabeth Barnes & Ross P. Cameron - 2011 - Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1):1-26.
    Many of us are tempted by the thought that the future is open, whereas the past is not. The future might unfold one way, or it might unfold another; but the past, having occurred, is now settled. In previous work we presented an account of what openness consists in: roughly, that the openness of the future is a matter of it being metaphysically indeterminate how things will turn out to be. We were previously concerned merely with presenting the view and (...)
  24. Future Contradictions.Jc Beall - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):547-557.
    A common and much-explored thought is ?ukasiewicz's idea that the future is ?indeterminate??i.e., ?gappy? with respect to some claims?and that such indeterminacy bleeds back into the present in the form of gappy ?future contingent? claims. What is uncommon, and to my knowledge unexplored, is the dual idea of an overdeterminate future?one which is ?glutty? with respect to some claims. While the direct dual, with future gluts bleeding back into the present, is worth noting, my central aim is simply to sketch (...)
  25. Branching Space-Time.Nuel Belnap - 1992 - Synthese 92 (3):385 - 434.
    Branching space-time is a simple blend of relativity and indeterminism. Postulates and definitions rigorously describe the causal order relation between possible point events. The key postulate is a version of everything has a causal origin; key defined terms include history and choice point. Some elementary but helpful facts are proved. Application is made to the status of causal contemporaries of indeterministic events, to how splitting of histories happens, to indeterminism without choice, and to Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen distant correlations.
  26. Indeterminism and the Thin Red Line.Nuel Belnap & Mitchell Green - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8:365 - 388.
  27. Branching and (in)Determinism.Jiri Benovsky - 2013 - Philosophical Papers 42 (2):151-173.
    At a first glance, and even at a second one, it seems that if time is linear the threat of determinism is more severe than if time is branching, since in the latter case the future is open in a way it is not in the former one where, so to speak, there exists only one branch – one future. In this paper, I want to give a 'third glance' at this claim. I acknowledge that such a claim is intuitive (...)
  28. Causal and Moral Indeterminacy.Sara Bernstein - 2016 - Ratio 29 (4):434-447.
    This paper argues that several sorts of metaphysical and semantic indeterminacy afflict the causal relation. If, as it is plausible to hold, there is a relationship between causation and moral responsibility, then indeterminacy in the causal relation results in indeterminacy of moral responsibility more generally.
  29. The Open Future, Bivalence and Assertion.Corine Besson & Anandi Hattiangadi - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (2):251-271.
    It is highly now intuitive that the future is open and the past is closed now—whereas it is unsettled whether there will be a fourth world war, it is settled that there was a first. Recently, it has become increasingly popular to claim that the intuitive openness of the future implies that contingent statements about the future, such as ‘There will be a sea battle tomorrow,’ are non-bivalent (neither true nor false). In this paper, we argue that the non-bivalence of (...)
  30. The Library of Alexandria: Past and Future.J. Bingen & A. Karrarah - 1988 - Diogenes 36 (141):38-55.
  31. Reproductive Cloning, Genetic Engineering and the Autonomy of the Child: The Moral Agent and the Open Future.Michael Blome-Tillman - manuscript
  32. Past Measurement and Future Prediction.Adriënne van den Bogaard - 1999 - In Margaret Morrison & Mary Morgan (eds.), Models as Mediators: Perspectives on Natural and Social Science.
  33. Seeing the Future Clearly: Questions on Future Contingents by Robert Holcot. [REVIEW]John Boler - 1997 - Speculum 72 (3):834-836.
  34. Seeing the Future Clearly: Questions on Future Contingents by Robert Holcot.Robert Holcot, Paul A. Streveler, Katherine H. Tachau, Hester Goodenough Gelber, William J. Courtenay. [REVIEW]John Boler - 1997 - Speculum 72 (3):834-836.
  35. Evaluating Future-Tensed Sentences in Changing Contexts.Andrea Bonomi & Fabio Del Prete - manuscript
    According to the actualist view, what is essential in the truth conditions of a future-tensed sentence of type ‘it will be the case that ϕ’ is the reference to the unique course of events that will become actual. On the other hand, the modal view has it that the truth conditions of such a sentence require the truth of ϕ being already “settled” at the time of utterance, where “being settled” is defined by universal quantification over a domain of courses (...)
  36. The Metaphysics of the Thin Red Line.Andrea Borghini & Giuliano Torrengo - 2013 - In F. Correia & A. Iacona (eds.), Around the Tree. Semantical and Metaphysical Issues Concerning Branching and the Open Future. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 105-125.
    There seems to be a minimal core that every theory wishing to accommodate the intuition that the future is open must contain: a denial of physical determinism (i.e. the thesis that what future states the universe will be in is implied by what states it has been in), and a denial of strong fatalism (i.e. the thesis that, at every time, what will subsequently be the case is metaphysically necessary).1 Those two requirements are often associated with the idea of an (...)
  37. Leon Baudry, The Quarrel Over Future Contingents. [REVIEW]Richard Bosley - 1991 - Philosophy in Review 11:152-156.
  38. Leon Baudry, The Quarrel Over Future Contingents (Louvain 1465-1475) Reviewed By.Richard Bosley - 1991 - Philosophy in Review 11 (3):152-156.
  39. Future Contingents, Non-Contradiction, and the Law of Excluded Middle Muddle.C. Bourne - 2004 - Analysis 64 (2):122-128.
  40. Future Contingents, Non-Contradiction, and the Law of Excluded Middle Muddle.Craig Bourne - 2004 - Analysis 64 (2):122–128.
  41. The Immediate Future.Emile Boutroux - 1921 - International Journal of Ethics 31 (4):370-380.
  42. Must the Future Be What It is Going to Be.R. D. Bradley - 1959 - Mind 68 (270):193-208.
  43. The Real Truth About the Unreal Future.Rachael Briggs & Graeme A. Forbes - 2012 - In Karen Bennett & Dean Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 7.
    Growing-Block theorists hold that past and present things are real, while future things do not yet exist. This generates a puzzle: how can Growing-Block theorists explain the fact that some sentences about the future appear to be true? Briggs and Forbes develop a modal ersatzist framework, on which the concrete actual world is associated with a branching-time structure of ersatz possible worlds. They then show how this branching structure might be used to determine the truth values of future contingents. They (...)
  44. Sea Battle Semantics.Berit Brogaard - 2008 - Philosophical Quarterly 58 (231):326–335.
    The assumption that the future is open makes well known problems for traditional semantics. According to a commonly held intuition, today's occurrence of the sentence 'There will be a sea battle tomorrow', while truth-valueless today, will have a determinate truth-value by tomorrow night. Yet given traditional semantics, sentences that are truth-valueless now cannot later 'become' true. Relativistic semantics has been claimed to do a better job of accommodating intuitions about future contingents than non-relativistic semantics does. However, intuitions about future contingents (...)
  45. No Past, No Future Appunti Per Una Fenomenologia Del Presente.Carlo Brosio - 2013 - Societ〠Degli Individui 46:92-104.
  46. 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.
  47. 8. Hegel's Open Future.John W. Burbidge - 1998 - In John Russon & Michael Baur (eds.), Hegel and the Tradition: Essays in Honour of H.S. Harris. University of Toronto Press. pp. 176-189.
  48. The Unreal Future.John P. Burgess - 1978 - Theoria 44 (3):157-179.
  49. The Memory of the Promise: Martin Matuštík's Museum of an Open Future.Patrick Burke - 2010 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 23 (4):340-349.
  50. Every Now and Then, No-Futurism Faces No Sceptical Problems.Tim Button - 2007 - Analysis 67 (4):325–332.
    Tallant (2007) has challenged my recent defence of no-futurism (Button 2006), but he does not discuss the key to that defence: that no-futurism's primitive relation 'x is real-as-of y' is not symmetric. I therefore answer Tallant's challenge in the same way as I originally defended no-futurism. I also clarify no-futurism by rejecting a common mis-characterisation of the growing-block theorist. By supplying a semantics for no-futurists, I demonstrate that no-futurism faces no sceptical challenges. I conclude by considering the problem of how (...)
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