Must a Four-Dimensionalist Believe in Temporal Parts?

The Monist 83 (3):399-418 (2000)
The following quotation, from Frank Jackson, is the beginning of a typical exposition of the debate between those metaphysicians who believe in temporal parts, and those who do not: The dispute between three-dimensionalism and four-dimensionalism, or more precisely, that part of the dispute we will be concerned with, concerns what persistence, and correllatively, what change, comes to. Three-dimensionalism holds that an object exists at a time by being wholly present at that time, and, accordingly, that it persists if it is wholly present at more than one time. For short, it persists by enduring. Four-dimensionalism holds that an object exists at a time by having a temporal part at that time, and it persists if it has distinct temporal parts at more than one time. For short, it persists by perduring. In the light of these comments, some readers will perhaps find the question that forms the title of this paper a little puzzling. They may have learned to use the terms ‘fourdimensionalism’ ‘perdurantism’ and ‘belief in temporal parts’ interchangeably; or perhaps even to define one in terms of the other. Such a usage, however, is inapposite. We might imagine a Flatland-like world of two spatial dimensions and one temporal, whose philosophers are divided between a theory of persistence on which they persist by having temporal parts, and a theory on which they persist by being wholly located in each of several times. This is just the same issue we face, but at least the label ‘four-dimensionalism’ seems inapposite: the four-dimensionalist Flatlanders believe in only three dimensions!
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Philosophy of Science
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ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI 10.5840/monist200083319
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