∗ Apologies to Mark Hinchliff for stealing the title of his dissertation. (See Hinchliff, A Defense of Presentism. As it turns out, however, the version of Presentism defended here is different from the version defended by Hinchliff. See Section 3.1 below.).
According to standard, pre-philosophical intuitions, there are many composite objects in the physical universe. There is, for example, my bicycle, which is composed of various parts - wheels, handlebars, molecules, atoms, etc. Recently, a growing body of philosophical literature has concerned itself with questions about the nature of composition.1 The main question that has been raised about composition is, roughly, this: Under what circumstances do some things compose, or add up to, or form, a single object? It turns out that (...) it is surprisingly difficult to give a satisfactory answer to this question that accords with standard, pre-philosophical intuitions about the universe's composite objects. In fact, the three rival views in response to this question that have received the most support in the literature are (i) that there are no objects composed of two or more parts (which means that there are no stars, chairs, humans, or bicycles);2 (ii) that the only objects composed of two or more parts are living organisms (which still means no stars. (shrink)
Since the publication of Peter van Inwagen's book, Material Beings,1 there has been a growing body of philosophical literature on the topic of composition. The main question addressed in both van Inwagen's book and subsequent discussions of the topic is a question that van Inwagen calls "the Special Composition Question." The Special Composition Question is, roughly, the question Under what circumstances do several things compose, or add up to, or form, a single object? For the purposes of formulating a more (...) precise version of the Special Composition Question, we can adopt the following technical terms. (shrink)
Let’s begin with a simple example. Consider two quarks: one near the tip of your nose, the other near the center of Alpha Centauri. Here is a question about these two subatomic particles: Is there an object that has these two quarks as its parts and that has no other parts? According to one view of the matter (a view that is surprisingly endorsed by a great many contemporary philosophers), the answer to this question is Yes. But I think it (...) is fair to say that according to common sense, the answer to this question is really No, there is no object that has as its only two parts a quark near the tip of your nose and another quark near the center of Alpha Centauri. (shrink)
In a recent paper I argued that agent causation theorists should be compatibilists. In this paper, I argue that compatibilists should be agent causation theorists. I consider six of the main problems facing compatibilism: (i) the powerful intuition that one can't be responsible for actions that were somehow determined before one was born; (ii) Peter van Inwagen's modal argument, involving the inference rule (β); (iii) the objection to compatibilism that is based on claiming that the ability to do otherwise is (...) a necessary condition for freedom; (iv) "manipulation arguments," involving cases in which an agent is manipulated by some powerful being into doing something that he or she would not normally do, but in such a way that the compatibilist's favorite conditions for a free action are satisfied; (v) the problem of constitutive luck; and (vi) the claim that it is not fair to blame someone for an action if that person was determined by forces outside of his or her control to perform that action. And in the case of each of these problems, I argue that the compatibilist has a much more plausible response to that problem if she endorses the theory of agent causation than she does otherwise. (shrink)
When do several objects compose a further object? The last twenty years have seen a great deal of discussion of this question. According to the most popular view on the market, there is a physical object composed of your brain and Jeremy Bentham’s body. According to the second-most popular view on the market, there are no such objects as human brains or human bodies, and there are also no atoms, rocks, tables, or stars. And according to the third-ranked view, there (...) are human bodies, but still no brains, atoms, rocks, tables, or stars. Although it’s pleasant to have so many crazy-sounding views around, I think it would also be nice to have a commonsense option available. The aim of this paper is to offer such an option. The approach I offer begins by considering a mereological question other than the standard one that has been the focus of most discussions in the literature. I try to show that the road to mereological sanity begins with giving the most straightforward and commonsensical answer to this other question, and then extending that answer to further questions about the mereology of physical objects. On the approach I am recommending, it turns out that all of the mereological properties and relations of physical objects are determined by their spatial properties and relations. (shrink)
I believe that time passes. In the last one hundred years or so, many philosophers have rejected this view. Those who have done so have generally been motivated by at least one of three different arguments: (i) McTaggart's argument, (ii) an argument from the theory of relativity, and (iii) an argument concerning the alleged incoherence of talk about the rate of the passage of time. There has been a great deal of literature on McTaggart's argument (although no concensus has been (...) reached).1 There has been a relatively small amount of literature on the argument from the theory of relativity, but this is perhaps not surprising, since most of us philosophers don't understand that theory.2 Meanwhile, there has not been a great deal of literature on the rate of passage argument, and this is surprising, I think, considering that the argument is easy to.. (shrink)
Discussions of the nature of time, and of various issues related to time, have always featured prominently in philosophy, but they have been especially important since the beginning of the 20th Century. This article contains a brief overview of some of the main topics in the philosophy of time — Fatalism; Reductionism and Platonism with respect to time; the topology of time; McTaggart's arguments; The A Theory and The B Theory; Presentism, Eternalism, and The Growing Universe Theory; time travel; and (...) the 3D/4D controversy — together with some suggestions for further reading on each topic, and a bibliography. (shrink)
The problem of freedom and determinism has vexed philosophers for several millennia, and continues to be a topic of lively debate today. One of the proposed solutions to the problem that has received a great deal of attention is the Theory of Agent Causation. While the theory has enjoyed its share of advocates, and perhaps more than its share of critics, the theory’s advocates and critics have always agreed on one thing: the Theory of Agent Causation is an incompatibilist theory. (...) That is, both believers and nonbelievers in the theory have taken it for granted that the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is one according to which freedom and determinism are incompatible. In fact, so entrenched is this assumption that no one on either side of the debate has ever questioned it. Yet it turns out that this assumption is wrong – the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is a compatibilist one. (shrink)
According to The Static Theory of Time, time is like space in various ways, and there is no such thing as the passage of time. According to The Dynamic Theory of Time, on the other hand, time is very different from space, and the passage of time is an all-too-real phenomenon. This paper first offers some suggestions about how we should understand these two theories, and then introduces five new arguments for The Dynamic Theory of Time.
This paper argues for including stuff in one's ontology. The distinction between things and stuff is first clarified, and then three different ontologies of the physical universe are spelled out: a pure thing ontology, a pure stuff ontology, and a mixed ontology of both things and stuff. Eleven different reasons for including stuff in one's ontology are given. Then five objections to positing stuff are considered and rejected.
There is a popular theory in the metaphysics of time according to which time is one of four similar dimensions that make up a single manifold that is appropriately called spacetime. One consequence of this thesis is that changing an object’s orientation in the manifold does not change its intrinsic features. In this paper I offer a new argument against this popular theory. I claim that an especially good performance of a particularly beautiful piece of music, when oriented within the (...) manifold in the normal way, adds to the intrinsic value of the world, but that if the same performance is turned sideways within the manifold, so that it involves a number of different notes spread out in space and all occurring at the same time, then it does not add the same intrinsic value to the world. (shrink)
This paper is about The Truthmaker Problem for Presentism. I spell out a solution to the problem that involves appealing to indeterministic laws of nature and branching semantics for past- and future-tensed sentences. Then I discuss a potential glitch for this solution, and propose a way to get around that glitch. Finally, I consider some likely objections to the view offered here, as well as replies to those objections.
The concept of a physical object has figured prominently in the history of philosophy, and is probably more important now than it has ever been before. Yet the question What are physical objects?, i.e., What is the correct analysis of the concept of a physical object?, has received surprisingly little attention. The purpose of this paper is to address this question. I consider several attempts at answering the question, and give my reasons for preferring one of them over its rivals. (...) The account of physical objects that I recommend---the Spatial Location Account---defines physical objects as objects with spatial locations. The intuitive idea behind the Spatial Location Account is this. Objects from all of the different ontological categories---physical objects; non-physical objects like souls, if there are any; propositions; universals; etc.---have this much in common: they all exist in time. But not all of them exist in space. The ones that exist in time and space, i.e., the ones that have spatial locations, are the ones that count as physical objects. (shrink)
I argue that time travel to the past is impossible, given a certain metaphysical theory, namely, The Dynamic Theory of Time. I first spell out my particular way of capturing the difference between The Dynamic Theory of Time and its rival, The Static Theory of Time. Next I offer four different arguments for the conclusion that The Dynamic Theory is inconsistent with the possibility of time travel to the past. Then I argue that, even if I am wrong about this, (...) it will still be true that The Dynamic Theory entails that you should not want to travel back to the past. Finally, I conclude by considering a puzzle that arises for those who believe that time travel to the past is metaphysically impossible: What exactly are we thinking about when we seem to be thinking about traveling back in time? For it certainly does not feel like we are thinking about something that is metaphysically impossible. (shrink)
This book is an accessible introduction to the central themes of contemporary metaphysics. It carefully considers accounts of causation, freedom and determinism, laws of nature, personal identity, mental states, time, material objects, and properties, while inviting students to reflect on metaphysical problems. The philosophical questions discussed include: What makes it the case that one event causes another event? What are material objects? Given that material objects exist, do such things as properties exist? What makes it the case that a person (...) may exist at two different times? An Introduction to Metaphysics makes these tough questions tractable by presenting the features and flaws of current attempts to answer them. Intended primarily for students taking a first class in metaphysics, this lucid and well-written text would also provide an excellent introduction for anyone interested in knowing more about this important area of philosophy. (shrink)
This paper is about the open future response to fatalistic arguments. I first present a typical fatalistic argument and then spell out the open future response as a response to that argument. Then I raise the question of how the open future response can be independently justified. I consider some possible ways in which the response might be defended, and I try to show that none of these is a plausible, non-question-begging defense. Next I formulate what I take to be (...) the only plausible, nonquestion-begging defense of the open future response. This defense involves both (i) the claim that the laws of nature are indeterministic and (ii) a certain version of the correspondence theory of truth. Finally, I argue that there is a very surprising consequence of justifying the open future response by making the defense in question, namely, that the past is sometimes open. Fatalism is the view that whatever will happen in the future is inevitable, due to certain considerations about truth and time. Fatalism, in turn, is normally taken to imply that there is no such thing as genuine, human free will. Suppose that I am an anti-fatalist. Suppose I believe that Joe Montana is free to choose what he will have for lunch tomorrow, and suppose I take this case to be a paradigmatic example of one involving both evitability and human free will. Now suppose that I meet a fatalist, who presents the following argument.1.. (shrink)
Worlds, Lewis says this: Let us say that something persists iff, somehow or other, it exists at various times; this is the neutral word. Something perdures iff it persists by having different temporal parts, or stages, at different times, though no one part of it is wholly present at more than one time; whereas it endures iff it persists by being wholly present at more than one time. Perdurance corresponds to the way a road persists through space; part of it (...) is here, and part of it is there, and no part is wholly present at two different places. Endurance corresponds to the way a universal, if there are such things, would be wholly present wherever and whenever it is instantiated. Endurance involves overlap: the content of two different times has the enduring thing as a common part. Perdurance does not.1 Lewis's remarks suggest the following formulations of the two views in the 3D/4D controversy.2.. (shrink)
Suppose you are asked to be the substitute teacher for a high school physics class. Suppose part of your assignment is to explain to the students all about the subatomic structure of a typical macroscopic object, such as a wooden table. Here is a speech that you are likely to find yourself making at some point during your lesson.
This paper has two main aims. The first is to propose a new way of characterizing the problem of personal identity. The second is to show that the metaphysical picture that underlies my proposal has important implications for the 3D/4D debate. I start by spelling out several of the old ways of characterizing the problem of personal identity and saying what I think is wrong with each of them. Next I present and motivate some metaphysical principles concerning property instantiations that (...) underlie my proposal. Then I introduce the new way of characterizing the problem of personal identity that I am recommending, and I show that it avoids the difficulties facing the old ways. I also mention several vexing problems that arise in connection with certain popular views about personal identity, and I argue that if we formulate the problem of personal identity in the way that I am proposing, then each of these problems can be handled fairly easily. Finally, I show that there is an additional benefit to adopting my proposal, namely, that several other important problems facing anyone who endorses a 3D view of persistence (as opposed to the 4D, “temporal parts” view of persistence) can all be resolved in a relatively straightforward.. (shrink)
The Theory of Agent Causation has always been formulated as an incompatibilist view, but I think that this has been a mistake. The aim of this paper is to argue that, contrary to what agent causation theorists and their opponents have always believed, the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is actually a compatibilist version of that theory. I formulate the traditional version of the Theory of Agent Causation, and consider a series of objections to it and (...) related views. With each objection comes a corresponding revision of the theory that is motivated by that objection, and with each revision the theory becomes increasingly compatibilistic until, finally, we arrive at a completely compatibilistic version of the Theory of Agent Causation, which I take to be the most plausible version of that theory. (shrink)
In this essay for a PPR book symposium on Theodore Sider's _Four-Dimensionalism<D>, I focus on two of Sider's arguments for four-dimensionalism: (i) his argument from vagueness, and (ii) his argument from time travel. Concerning (i), I first show that Sider's argument commits him to certain strange consequences that many four-dimensionalists may not endorse, and then I discuss an objection that involves appealing to 'brutal composition', the view that there is no informative answer to Peter van Inwagen's 'special composition question'. Concerning (...) (ii), I argue that the three-dimensionalist can account for time travel scenarios in a way that is analogous to Sider's four-dimensionalist account of such scenarios. (shrink)
This piece is a contribution to a book symposium on Fabrice Correia and Sven Rosenkranz's _Nothing to Come: A Defense of the Growing Block Theory of Time_. I start by considering one of the main objections that has been raised against the Growing Block Theory, namely, the Epistemic Objection, together with Correia and Rosenkranz's response to that objection. This leads to a question about whether Correia and Rosenkranz’s view is a Four-Dimensionalist version of the Growing Block Theory or a Three-Dimensionalist (...) version of the theory. I argue that there are three possible ways Correia and Rosenkranz might respond to this question, and I raise several worries for each of those ways. Then I offer some free advice about how I think Correia and Rosenkranz ought to respond to the question. (shrink)
I raised the following question in a recent paper: What are the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for an object's being a simple? And I proposed and defended this answer (which I called 'MaxCon'): Necessarily, x is a simple iff x is a maximally continuous object. In a more recent paper, Kris McDaniel raises several objections to MaxCon, including, in particular, two objections based on a principle about the supervenience of constitution that he calls 'SoC'. The purpose of the present (...) paper is to address the main objections raised by McDaniel, and to show that none of them poses a serious threat to MaxCon. (shrink)
The topic of this paper is the familiar problem of skepticism about the external world. How can you know that you are not a brain in a vat being fooled byalien scientists? And if you can't know that, how can you know anything about the external world? The paper assumes Evidentialism as a theory about justification, and then argues that you are justified in believing that you are not a brain in a vat, in virtue of the fact that your (...) evidence supports that belief. The paper also considers a number of different objections to this proposal. The upshot is that you do know that you are a not a brain in a vat, and that you also know lots of things about the external world. (shrink)
Once upon a time, during a large and international conference of the world's leading philosophers, an angel miraculously appeared and said, "I come to you as a messenger from God. You will be permitted to ask any one question you want - but only one! - and I will answer that question truthfully. What would you like to ask?" The philosophers were understandably excited, and immediately began a discussion of what would be the best question to ask. But it quickly (...) became obvious that they needed more time to discuss the matter, so they asked the angel if he could get back to them. The angel was obliging, and said that he would return at the same time the next day. "But be prepared then," he warned them, "for you will only get this one chance." All of the philosophers gathered at the convention worked at a frenzied pace for the next twenty-four hours, proposing and weighing the merits of various questions. Other philosophers from around the world became involved as well, faxing and emailing their suggestions. Some were in favor of asking the kind of practical question that lots of people might like to know the answer to, such as this one: Q1 Is it better to check your oil when the car is hot or when it is cold? But others said they should not squander this rare opportunity, which gave them a chance to learn something about a truly important and intrinsically interesting topic, and after some discussion it was generally agreed that this was right. (shrink)
Anslem raised a puzzle about mercy: How can anyone (God, say, or a judge) be both just and merciful at the same time? For it seemed to Anselm that justice requires giving people what they deserve, while being merciful involves treating people less harshly than they deserve. This puzzle has led to a number of analyses of mercy. But a strange thing emerges from discussions of this topic: people seem to have wildly divergent intuitions about putative cases of mercy. Examples (...) that are taken by some to be paradigm cases of mercy are seen by others to be clear instances of non-mercy. This phenomenon gives rise to a new puzzle: Why is it that people seem to have such wildly divergent intuitions about putative examples of mercy? This paper proposes a new analysis of mercy that provides solutions to both of these puzzles about mercy. (shrink)
Theodore Sider’s Four-Dimensionalism is a well-organized and clearly written book that is chock-full of important arguments. Both friends and foes of the views defended by Sider will benefit enormously from careful study of the book. I am going to focus on just two of Sider’s many arguments for Four-Dimensionalism: his argument from vagueness, which I take to be the most important and powerful argument in the book, and his argument from time travel, which I find to be the funnest to (...) think about. (shrink)
Some people think that pastness, presentness and futurity (and their metric variants, such as being two days past) are genuine propeties of times and events. These putative properties are sometimes called “A properties” and the philosopers who believe in them are often called “A Theorists.” Other philosophers don’t believe in the reality of A properties, but instead say that talk that appears to be about such properties is really about “B relations” – two-place temporal relations like earlier than, simultaneous with, (...) and later than (together with their metric variants, like two days earlier than). The latter philosophers are often called “B Theorists,” and the debate between A Theorists and B Theorists has dominated the philosophy of time since 1908.1 The two views can be put this way. The A Theory: There are genuine, irreducible A properties; talk that appears to be about A properties is not analyzable in terms of B relations. (shrink)
The main question addressed in this paper is: What is the most promising ethical theory that can be formulated in terms of the notion of a prima facie duty? I try to show that the answer to this question involves an ethical theory that, despite never having been discussed, is nevertheless worthy of serious consideration. The theory, Rossian Minimalism, says, roughly, that an act, A, is morally right iff no alternative to A would constitute less of a violation of prima (...) facie duties than A. (shrink)
In a recent Analysis article, Quentin Smith argues that classical theism is inconsistent with certain consequences of Stephen Hawking's quantum cosmology.1 Although I am not a theist, it seems to me that Smith's argument fails to establish its conclusion. The purpose of this paper is to show what is wrong with Smith's argument. According to Smith, Hawking's cosmological theory includes what Smith calls "Hawking's wave function law." Hawking's wave function law (hereafter, "HL") apparently has, among its consequences, the following claim. (...) (1) The unconditional probability that a universe like this one - i.e., a universe with the metric hij and matter field Φ - should begin to exist is 95%.2 Smith then argues that the theist who accepts HL must also accept that the following sentence was once true.3.. (shrink)
Many of the leading accounts of what makes a life meaningful are goal-based theories, according to which it is the pursuit of some specific goal (such as love for things that are worthy of love) that gives meaning to our lives. In this chapter I consider how these goal-based theories of meaning in life interact with the two main theories of the nature of time that have been defended in the recent metaphysics literature, namely, The Dynamic Theory of Time and (...) The Static Theory of Time. I argue that The Dynamic Theory fits well with goal-based theories of meaning in life, but The Static Theory does not. Then I close with some thoughts about what a Static Theorist should make of this conclusion. (shrink)
Various proposals have been made for solving The Two Envelope Problem. But even though the problem itself is easily stated and quite simple, the proposedsolutions have not been. Some involve calculus, some involve considerations about infinite values, and some are complicated in other ways. Moreover, there is not yet any one solution that is widely accepted as correct. In addition to being notable for its simplicity and its lack of a generally agreed-upon solution, The Two Envelope Problem is also notable (...) because it demonstrates that something that has been taken to be a fundamental principle of decision theory is false. The main purpose of this paper is to propose and defend a simple solution to The Two Envelope Problem. But I also want to make a start on the project of figuring out how the relevant fundamental principle of decision theory should be revised. (shrink)
Since the early part of this century there has been a considerable amount of discussion of the question 'Does time pass?'. A useful way of approaching the debate over the passage of time is to consider the following thesis: The space-time thesis (SPT): Time is similar to the dimensions of space in at least this one respect: there is no set of properties such that (i) these properties are possessed by time, (ii) these properties are not possessed by any dimension (...) of space, and (iii) in virtue of time's possession of these properties it is true to say that time passes. Those who say that time does not pass generally want to affirm something like SPT. But those, on the other hand, who say that time does pass generally want to deny SPT. Of course, SPT is, as it stands, a mere skeleton of a thesis. It needs to be fleshed out. What could the relevant properties be? Why exactly would it be that in virtue of time's possession of these properties it is true to say that time passes? What exactly would it mean to say that time passes? These are all matters that require considerable discussion. The aim of this paper, however, is to take up some linguistic issues that have been considered central to the debate over the passage of time. There are two main reasons why I think it is appropriate to discuss these linguistic issues independently of the relevant metaphysical issues. The first reason is historical: many of the writers who have taken up the issue of whether or not time passes have begun their discussions by focusing on linguistic.. (shrink)
Physical objects are the most familiar of all objects, and yet the concept of a physical object remains elusive. Any six-year-old can give you a dozen examples of physical objects, and most people with at least one undergraduate course in philosophy can also give examples of non-physical objects. But if asked to produce a definition of ‘physical object’ that adequately captures the distinction between the physical and the nonphysical, the average person can offer little more than hand-waving.
Elizabeth Karger has suggested an interpretation of Ockham's theory of the modes of common personal supposition ("TM") according to which the purpose of TM is to provide certain distinctions that Ockham will use in formulating a unified theory of immediate inference among certain kinds of sentences. Karger presents a single, powerful rule of inference that incorporates TM distinctions and that is meant to codify Ockham's theory of immediate inference. I raise an objection to Karger's rule, thereby calling into doubt the (...) interpretation of Ockham that is based on attributing that rule to him. (shrink)
This is not your typical book about the A-theory/B-theory controversy in metaphysics. Peter Ludlow attempts something that few philosophers have tried in the last thirty years: he actually argues from linguistic premises for metaphysical conclusions. The relevant linguistic premises have to do with the nature of language, a general theory of semantics, the proper analysis of tense, and various technical theses involving the treatment of temporal indexicals and temporal anaphora. The metaphysical conclusions that Ludlow argues for from these linguistic premises (...) are some of the main claims normally associated with the A-theory in the philosophy of time, namely, that tense is a genuine feature of the world – and that the instantiation of these properties does not somehow reduce to the instantiation of two-place, temporal relations like earlier than, simultaneous with, later than, etc.), that temporal becoming is intrinsic to all events, and that only the present is real. The overall plan of the book is as follows. First Ludlow spends four chapters defending a cluster of related claims about language and semantics in general and, in particular, the semantics for temporal indexicals and temporal anaphora. (Ludlow says that none of this material is original – he attributes most of it to Davidson, Chomsky, Evans, and Higginbotham – but it seems to me that a fair portion of what goes into this part of the book (including, especially. (shrink)
Theodore Sider’s Four-Dimensionalism1 is a well-organized and clearly written book that is chock-full of important arguments. Both friends and foes of the views defended by Sider will benefit enormously from careful study of the book. I am going to focus on just two of Sider’s many arguments for Four-Dimensionalism: his argument from vagueness, which I take to be the most important and powerful argument in the book, and his argument from time travel, which I find to be the funnest to (...) think about. (shrink)
My topic is the question 'Does time pass?'. Although much has been written in attempts to answer this question, not enough attention has been paid to the asking of the question itself. As a result, it has not been clear exactly what is at issue in this matter, and, consequently, it has not been clear just what are the different views available to one who wishes to give an answer to the question. I hope to ameliorate this situation. ;The aims (...) of my essay are: to state the issues involved in the controversy over temporal passage in a fruitful way; to formulate what I see as the leading candidates among the possible responses to those issues; and to consider the best arguments relevant to the choice among these alternative views. ;Roughly one-quarter of the essay is devoted to linguistic questions about time and tense. Another quarter is devoted to metaphysical matters involving the status of such putative properties as pastness, presentness and futurity. What emerge are not just two but, rather, five distinct views about whether or not time passes: one view, which I call the 4D view, to the effect that time does not pass, and four different views, which I call the 3D views, to the effect that time does pass. Each of these five views consists of a package of linguistic and metaphysical components. ;Once I have formulated these five different views, I present, for each of the five views, a formal language, with semantics, that would be appropriate for that view. Next, various arguments that have been suggested in the literature against the claim that time passes are considered as arguments against the 3D views; each such argument is found to be defective. Similarly, various arguments that have been suggested in the literature against the claim that time does not pass are considered as arguments against the 4D view; each of these arguments is also found to be defective. ;Finally, I explain why I prefer a certain one of the 3D views over its four rivals, and I consider some possible objections to that view. (shrink)