Presentism and ontological symmetry

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):223 – 240 (2005)
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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that there is an inconsistency between two presentist doctrines: that of ontological symmetry and asymmetry of fixity. The former refers to the presentist belief that the past and future are equally unreal. The latter refers to the A-Theoretic intuition that the past is closed or actual, and the future is open or potential. My position in this paper is that the presentist is unable to account for the temporal asymmetry that is so fundamentally a part of her theory. In Section I, I briefly outline a recent defence of presentism due to Craig, and argue that a flaw in this defence highlights the tension between the presentist's doctrines of ontological symmetry and asymmetry of fixity. In Section II, I undertake an investigation, on the presentist's behalf, in order to determine whether she is capable of reconciling these two doctrines. In the course of the investigation, I consider different asymmetries, other than that of ontology, which might be said fundamentally to constitute temporal asymmetry, and the asymmetry of fixity in particular. In Section III, I also consider whether the presentist is able to avail herself of some of the standard B-Theoretic accounts of the asymmetry of fixity, and argue that she cannot. Finally, I conclude that temporal asymmetry cannot be accounted for (or explained) other than through the postulation of an ontological asymmetry.

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Joseph Diekemper
Queen's University, Belfast

References found in this work

The Nature of Necessity.Alvin Plantinga - 1974 - Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
Time, Tense, and Causation.Michael Tooley - 1997 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Asymmetries in Time.Paul Horwich - 1990 - Noûs 24 (5):804-806.

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