Does time seem to pass, even though it doesn’t, really? Many philosophers think the answer is ‘Yes’—at least when ‘time’s passing’ is understood in a particular way. They take time’s passing to be a process by which each time in turn acquires a special status, such as the status of being the only time that exists, or being the only time that is present. This chapter suggests that, on the contrary, all we perceive is temporal succession, one thing after another, (...) a notion to which modern physics is not inhospitable. The contents of perception are best described in terms of ‘before’ and ‘after’, rather than ‘past’, ‘present, and ‘future’. (shrink)
I offer an interpretation and a partial defense of Kit Fine's ‘Argument from Passage’, which is situated within his reconstruction of McTaggart's paradox. Fine argues that existing A-theoretic approaches to passage are no more dynamic, i.e. capture passage no better, than the B-theory. I argue that this comparative claim is correct. Our intuitive picture of passage, which inclines us towards A-theories, suggests more than coherent A-theories can deliver. In Finean terms, the picture requires not only Realism about tensed facts, but (...) also Neutrality, i.e. the tensed facts not being ‘oriented towards’ one privileged time. However unlike Fine, and unlike others who advance McTaggartian arguments, I take McTaggart's paradox to indicate neither the need for a more dynamic theory of passage nor that time does not pass. A more dynamic theory is not to be had: Fine's ‘non-standard realism’ amounts to no more than a conceptual gesture. But instead of concluding that time does not pass, we should conclude that theories of passage cannot deliver the dynamicity of our intuitive picture. For this reason, a B-theoretic account of passage that simply identifies passage with the succession of times is a serious contender. (shrink)
Elsewhere I have suggested that the B-theory includes a notion of passage, by virtue of including succession. Here, I provide further support for that claim by showing that uncontroversial elements of the B-theory straightforwardly ground a veridical sense of passage. First, I argue that the B-theory predicts that subjects of experience have a sense of passivity with respect to time that they do not have with respect to space, which they are right to have, even according to the B-theory. I (...) then ask what else might be involved in our experience of time as passing that is not yet vindicated by the B-theoretic conception. I examine a recent B-theoretic explanation of our ‘illusory’ sense of passage, by Robin Le Poidevin, and argue that it explains away too much: our perception of succession poses no more of a problem on the B-theory than it does on other theories of time. Finally, I respond to an objection by Oreste Fiocco that a causal account of our sense of passage cannot succeed, because it leaves out the ‘phenomenological novelty’ of each moment. (shrink)
Usually, the B-theory of time is taken to involve the claim that time does not, in reality, pass; after all, on the B-theory, nothing really becomes present and then more and more past, times do not come into existence successively, and which facts obtain does not change. For this reason, many B-theorists have recently tried to explain away one or more aspect(s) of experience that they and their opponents take to constitute an experience of time as passing. In this paper, (...) I examine three prominent proposals of this kind and argue that, though intriguing, the proposals undermine, to some extent, the assumption that there is an element of experience that B-theorists need to take to be illusory. (shrink)
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 (...) metaphysicians, nor by philosophers of physics. This paper revisits the question in the light of prominent elucidation attempts from both camps. The upshot is that skeptics were right to be puzzled. The paper then explores a possible re-interpretation of positions in temporal ontology that links it to normative views about how we should live as temporal beings. (shrink)
In his recent book ‘Experiencing time’, Simon Prosser discusses a wide variety of topics relating to temporal experience, in a way that is accessible both to those steeped in the philosophy of mind, and to those more familiar with the philosophy of time. He forcefully argues for the conclusion that the B-theorist of time can account for the temporal appearances. In this article, I offer a chapter by chapter response.
Some naturalists feel an affinity with some religions, or with a particular religion. They may have previously belonged to it, and/or been raised in it, and/or be close to people who belong to it, and/or simply feel attracted to its practices, texts and traditions. This raises the question of whether and to what extent a naturalist can lead the life of a religious believer. The sparse literature on this topic focuses on religious fictionalism. I also frame the debate in these (...) terms. I ask what religious fictionalism might amount to, reject some possible versions of it and endorse a different one. I then examine the existing proposals, by Robin Le Poidevin, Peter Lipton, Andrew Eshleman and Howard Wettstein, and show that even on my version of religious fictionalism, much of what has been described by these authors is still possible. (shrink)
In this paper, I try to make sense of the growing block view using Kit Fine’s three-fold classification of A-theoretic views of time. I begin by motivating the endeavor of making sense of the growing block view by examining John Earman’s project in ‘Reassessing the prospects for a growing block model of the universe’. Next, I review Fine’s reconstruction of McTaggart’s argument and its accompanying three-fold classification of A-theoretic views. I then consider three interpretations of Earman’s growing block model: the (...) hybrid growing block, the purely tensed growing block, and Michael Tooley’s growing block. I argue for three claims. First, Finean ‘standard’ versions of these views are less congenial to the growing blocker than ‘non-standard’ ones. Second, the hybrid view is problematic on either version. And third, ‘non-standard’ versions are not fully intelligible. I provide further support for the first and third of these claims and explain why I take them to support a minimal account of passage as succession, which undercuts some of the motivation for Earman’s project. Lastly, I answer three objections. (shrink)
This chapter discusses some aspects of the relation between temporal experience and the A versus B debate. To begin with, I provide an overview of the A versus B debate and, following Baron et al. (2015), distinguish between two B-theoretic responses to the A- theoretic argument from experience, veridicalism and illusionism. I then argue for veridicalism over illusionism, by examining our (putative) experiences as of presentness and as of time passing. I close with some remarks on the relation between veridicalism (...) and a deflationary view of the A versus B debate. I suggest that the deflationary view can provide further support for veridicalism. (shrink)
What, if anything, makes death bad for the deceased themselves? Deprivationists hold that death is bad for the deceased iff it deprives them of intrinsic goods they would have enjoyed had they lived longer. This view faces the problem that birth too seems to deprive one of goods one would have enjoyed had one been born earlier, so that it too should be bad for one. There are two main approaches to the problem. In this paper, I explore the second (...) approach, by Anthony Brueckner and John Martin Fischer, and suggest that it can be developed so as to meet deprivationists’ needs. On the resulting view, metaphysical differences between the future and the past give rise to a corresponding axiological difference in the intrinsic value of future and past experiences. As experiences move into the past, they lose their intrinsic value for the person. (shrink)
In this paper I revisit a dispute between Mikel Burley and Robin Le Poidevin about whether or not the B-theory of time can give its adherents any reason to be less afraid of death. In ‘Should a B-theoretic atheist fear death?’, Burley argues that even on Le Poidevin’s understanding of the B-theory, atheists shouldn’t be comforted. His reason is that the prevalent B-theoretic account of our attitudes towards the past and future precludes treating our fear of death as unwarranted. I (...) examine his argument and provide a tentative defense of Le Poidevin. I claim that while Burley rightly spots a tension with a non-revisionary approach to our ordinary emotional life, he doesn’t isolate the source of that tension. The real question is how to understand Le Poidevin’s idea that on the B-theory, we and our lives are ‘eternally real’. I then suggest that there is a view of time that does justice to Le Poidevin’s remarks, albeit a strange one. The view takes temporal relations to be quasi-spatial and temporal entities to exist in a totum simul. (shrink)
This is an invited commentary on "Physical Time within Human Time" (Gruber, Block, & Montemayor, 2022) and "Bridging the Neuroscience and Physics of Time" (Buonomano & Rovelli, 2021). I’m very sympathetic to aspects of each proposal. In this article, I offer some comments, starting with (Buonomano & Rovelli, 2021).
I examine the relation between naturalistically motivated and other critiques of grounding and similar critiques of the contrast between A- and B-theoretic views of time. I argue that even the combined dialectical upshot of nonunity objections in the latter case is not what it is in the former. I sympathetically discuss the objection that the notion of grounding is not intelligible and part of ‘esoteric’ metaphysics; this objection turns out to be just as serious in the case of the A/B (...) contrast. I then consider whether grounding is needed to draw the A/B contrast in the first place and answer this question in the negative. Finally, I comment on the costs of esotericism in both cases. (shrink)
This paper investigates the connection between temporal attitudes (attitudes characterised by a concern (or lack thereof) about future and past events), beliefs about temporal ontology (beliefs about the existence of future and past events) and temporal preferences (preferences regarding where in time events are located). Our aim is to probe the connection between these preferences, attitudes, and beliefs, in order to better evaluate the normative status of these preferences. We investigate the hypothesis that there is a three-way association between (a) (...) being present-biased (that is, preferring that positive events are located in the present, and negative events are located in the non-present), (b) believing that past and future events do not exist and (c) tending to have present-focused rather than non-present-focused temporal attitudes. We find no such association. This suggests that insofar as temporal preferences and temporal attitudes are connected to the ways we represent time, they are not connected to the ways we represent temporal ontology; rather, they are more likely connected to the ways we represent relative movement in, or of, time. This has important consequences for, first, explaining why we exhibit these preferences and, second, for their normative evaluation. (shrink)
This article is a response to Clifford Williams’s claim that the debate between A- and B theories of time is misconceived because these theories do not differ. I provide some missing support for Williams’s claim that the B-theory includes transition, by arguing that representative B-theoretic explanations for why we experience time as passing (even though it does not) are inherently unstable. I then argue that, contra Williams, it does not follow that there is nothing at stake in the A- versus (...) B debate. (shrink)
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.
Craig Callender’s What Makes Time Special? (OUP 2017) advocates and practices an innovative, thoroughly interdisciplinary approach to philosophical questions about time and temporal features of our lives. Grappling with it is of intrinsic philosophical interest; it is also part of responding to the methodological invitation the book issues to philosophers of time. This paper is motivated by the wish to clarify WMTS’s philosophical underpinnings. The main claim of the paper is that WMTS relies on an ambiguity between rejecting the A-theory (...) versus B-theory debate, and endorsing a position within that debate. This ambiguity leads to a somewhat unstable position on how a key feature of manifest time, namely our sense of time as flowing, arises from physical time. The paper ends with a suggestion for how to resolve the ambiguity, in a way that is in line with the gist of Callender’s overall vision for the field. (shrink)
This entry provides an overview of some key positions on God and time and discusses arguments for and against divine timelessness. The final section outlines some other philosophical contexts in which the concept of eternity can play a role.
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 (...) time really passes and whether the future is genuinely ‘open’ while the past is ‘fixed’. I argue for the following claims: (1) Caruso et al.’s talk of a subjective movement through time seems best interpreted as concerning our longer term cognitive relationship to time; (2) both A- and B-theoretic interpretations of their discussion are viable as interpretations; (3) if combined with Priorean arguments for the A-theory, it takes some work to make sure the A-theoretic interpretation respects Van Boven and Caruso’s constraint that the objective temporal distance cannot directly influence psychological outcomes without influencing psychological intermediaries; and (4) a third, less metaphysically loaded interpretation may be preferable to both the A- and the B-theoretic ones. (shrink)
This article is an evaluation of Le Poidevin’s use of Carnap ’s stance on ontology within the philosophy of religion. Le Poidevin claims that 1) theists need to take God to be a putative entity within space-time in order for their claim that God exists to be meaningful, and that 2) instrumentalism about theology is viable. I argue that although Le Poidevin’s response to Carnap ’s argument is no less problematic than that argument itself, his position is in fact thoroughly (...) un-Carnapian. The upshot is that his discussion provides some support to atheism, but none to either of his two official conclusions. (shrink)
We offer a new answer to the paradox of tragedy. We explain part of the appeal of tragic art in terms of its acknowledgement of sad aspects of life and offer a tentative explanation of why acknowledgement is a source of pleasure.
This article relates the philosophical discussion on naturalistic religious practice to Tim Crane’s The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View, in which he claims that atheists can derive no genuine solace from religion. I argue that Crane’s claim is a little too strong. There is a sense in which atheists can derive solace from religion and that fact is worth acknowledging.
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 (...) and Carnapian reactions to elements of the contemporary scene. (shrink)
I respond to Jeffrey Bishop’s article ‘Arts of Dying and the Statecraft of Killing’, in this issue, and in particular to his remarks in support of the claim that assisted death should not be legalised.
Fabrice Correia and Sven Rosenkranz’s book Nothing to Come: a Defence of the Growing Block Theory of Time offers an incredibly rich and skillful defense of the growing block theory (GBT), a view of time that arguably has much intuitive appeal, and which has been under attack from many sides. Nonetheless, I have to report that the book’s tense-logical course of treatment has not worked for me; I still struggle with making sense of the GBT. This article begins by drawing (...) out some implications of the book’s set up. First, the notion of existence in play here is not interpretable on the basis of ordinary usage. Second, it would be a mistake to take the tense-logical framework to have any metaphysical significance. I then articulate two main worries about their version of the GBT. The first worry takes a familiar shape: it is just hard to see how their view is dynamic in the relevant sense. The second worry is that the topic seems to have been changed. C&R’s logical system helps itself to key notions whose intended interpretation includes a solution to every metaphysical puzzle about the GBT, so that these puzzles are not so much addressed as enshrined in a formal system. That is, their view seems to answer the question of how language should behave, if the GBT were (somehow) true. (shrink)
I have always found Robin’s writings on religion delightfully insightful and stimulating, and this piece was no exception. What follows are some of the thoughts that occurred to me, in order of occurrence.
The God of Western religion is said to be eternal. But what does that mean? Is God somehow beyond time, living a life that does not involve one thing after another? Or is God's relationship to time much more like ours, so that God's eternality just consists in there being no time at which God doesn't exist? Even for non-believers, these issues have interesting implications for the relation between historical and scientific findings on the one hand, and religion on the (...) other. This Element introduces the reader to the requisite metaphysical background, and then examines reasons for and against thinking of God as timeless. (shrink)
Dieses Kapitel ist der Frage gewidmet, ob und inwieweit sich ein Naturalist, dessen Weltbild keinerlei übernatürliche Elemente beinhaltet, am religiösen Leben teilhaben und sich auf religiöse Gedanken und Empfindungen einlassen kann.