Presentists, who believe that only present objects exist, face a problem concerning truths about the past. Presentists should (but cannot) locate truth-makers for truths about the past. What can presentists say in response? We identify two rival factions ‘upstanding’ and ‘nefarious’ presentists. Upstanding presentists aim to meet the challenge, positing presently existing truth-makers for truths about the past; nefarious presentists aim to shirk their responsibilities, using the language of truth-maker theory but without paying any ontological price. We argue that presentists (...) should be nefarious presentists. (shrink)
Presentism is the view that only present entities exist. Recently, several authors have asked the question whether presentism is able to account for cross-time relations, i.e., roughly, relations between entities existing at different times. In this paper I claim that this question is to be answered in the affirmative. To make this claim plausible, I consider four types of cross-time relation and show how each can be accommodated without difficulty within the metaphysical framework of presentism.
Thisness Presentism outlines and defends a novel version of presentism, the view that only present entities exist and what is present really changes. Presentism is a view of time that captures a real and objective difference between what is past, present, and future, and which offers a model of reality that is dynamic and mutable, rather than static and immutable. The book advances a new defence of presentism by developing a novel ontology of thisness, combining insights (...) about the nature of essence, the metaphysics of propositions, and the relationship between true propositions and the elements of reality that make them true, alongside insights about time itself. It shows how, by accepting an ontology of thisness, presentists can respond to a number of pressing challenges to presentism, including claims that presentism cannot account for true propositions about the past, and that it is inconsistent with the reality of temporal passage and the openness of the future. This is one of the only book-length defences of presentism. It will be of interest to students and scholars working on the debate about presentism in the philosophy of time, as well as those interested in the metaphysics of propositions and truth-making, more generally. (shrink)
Presentism is the doctrine that only the present is real. Since ordinary talk and thought are full of quantification over non-present objects, presentists are in a familiar predicament: in their unreflective moments they apparently commit themselves to far more than their ontological scruples allow. A familiar response is to begin a project of paraphrase. Truths appearing to quantify over problematic entities are shown, on analysis, to not involve quantification over those entities after all. But I think that we might (...) be better off abandoning paraphrase altogether. I suggest a project of discovering “underlying truths” rather than paraphrases. I will explore this strategy as applied to defending presentism, but my hope is that lovers of desert landscapes everywhere will herein find words of comfort. (shrink)
Three plausible views—Presentism, Truthmaking, and Independence—form an inconsistent triad. By Presentism, all being is present being. By Truthmaking, all truth supervenes on, and is explained in terms of, being. By Independence, some past truths do not supervene on, or are not explained in terms of, present being. We survey and assess some responses to this.
Perdurantists think of continuants as mereological sums of stages from different times. This view of persistence would force us to drop the idea that there is genuine change in the world. By exploiting a presentist metaphysics, Brogaard proposed a theory, called presentist four-dimensionalism, that aims to reconcile perdurantism with the idea that things undergo real change. However, her proposal commits us to reject the idea that stages must exist in their entirety. Giving up the tenet that all the stages are (...) equally real could be a price that perdurantists are unwilling to pay. I argue that Kit Fine ’s fragmentalism provides us with the tools to combine a presentist metaphysics with a perdurantist theory of persistence without giving up the idea that reality is constituted by more than purely present stages. (shrink)
Presentism is held by most to be the intuitive theory of time, due in large part to the view's supposed preservation of time's passage. In this paper, I strike a blow against presentism's intuitive pull by showing how the presentist, contrary to overwhelming popular belief, is unable to establish temporal change upon which the passage of time is based. I begin by arguing that the presentist's two central ontological commitments, the Present Thesis and the Change Thesis, are incompatible. (...) The main problem is that satisfying the Change Thesis to establish passage requires the existence of more than one moment. This conflicts with the Present Thesis that only the present moment exists. The presentist's response is to appeal to surrogates to stand proxy for the past, so as to account for the difference between what does exist and what did exist. I argue that, for this surrogate strategy to be successful, the proposed surrogates must track what actually happened. I demonstrate that there is no guarantee that t.. (shrink)
Many philosophers believe that truth is grounded: True propositions depend for their truth on the world. Some philosophers believe that truth’s grounding has implications for our ontology of time. If truth is grounded, then truth supervenes on being. But if truth supervenes on being, then presentism is false since, on presentism, e.g., that there were dinosaurs fails to supervene on the whole of being plus the instantiation pattern of properties and relations. Call this the grounding argument against (...) class='Hi'>presentism. Many presentists claim that the grounding argument fails because, despite appearances, supervenience is compatible with presentism. In this paper, I claim that the grounding argument fails because, despite appearances, truth’s grounding gives the presentist no compelling reason to adopt the sort of supervenience principle at work in the grounding argument. I begin by giving two precisifications of the grounding principle: truthmaking and supervenience. In Sect. 2, I give the grounding argument against presentism. In Sect. 3, I argue that we should distinguish between eternalist and presentist notions of grounding; once this distinction is in hand, the grounding argument is undercut. In Sect. 4, I show how the presentist’s notion of grounding leads to presentist-friendly truthmaking and supervenience principles. In Sect. 5, I address some potential objections. (shrink)
This paper has three main sections. The first section provides a general characterisation of presentism, eternalism and growing blockism. It presents a pair of core, defining claims that jointly capture each of these three views. This makes clear the respects in which the different views agree, and the respects in which they disagree, about the nature of time. The second section takes these characterisations and considers whether we really do have three distinct views, or whether defenders of these views (...) are somehow talking past one another when they claim to disagree. The third section looks at the key objections to each view and considers some of the replies that can be made to those objections. The paper concludes by offering some thoughts about how future research might help us resolve the debate between defenders of these three views. (shrink)
We argue that presentism, understood as a view about time and existence, can perspicuously be defined in opposition to all other familiar contenders without appeal to any notion of presentness or cognate notions such as concreteness. Given recent worries about the suitability of such notions to cut much metaphysical ice, this should be welcomed by presentism's defenders. We also show that, irrespective of its sparse ideology, the proposed formulation forestalls any deviant interpretation at odds with the view it (...) aims to capture. (shrink)
In this paper, we show that presentism -- the view that the way things are is the way things presently are -- is not undermined by the objection from being-supervenience. This objection claims, roughly, that presentism has trouble accounting for the truth-value of past-tense claims. Our demonstration amounts to the articulation and defence of a novel version of presentism. This is brute past presentism, according to which the truth-value of past-tense claims is determined by the past (...) understood as a fundamental aspect of reality different from things and how things are. (shrink)
Ostrich presentists maintain that we can use all the expressive resources of the tensed language to provide an explanation of why true claims about the past are true, without thereby paying any price in terms of ontology or basic ideology. I clarify the position by making a distinction between three kinds of explanation, which has general interest and applicability. I then criticize the ostrich position because it requires an unconstrained version of the third form of explanation, which is out of (...) place in metaphysics. (shrink)
The distinction between presentism and eternalism is usually sought in some formula like ‘Only presently existing things exist’ or ‘Past, present, and future events are equally real’. I argue that ambiguities in the copula prevent these slogans from distinguishing significant opposed positions. I suggest in addition that one can find a series of significant distinctions if one takes spacetime structure into account. These presentisms and eternalisms are not contradictory. They are complementary elements of a complete naturalistic philosophy of time.
Presentism is usually understood as the thesis that only the present exists whereas the rival theory of eternalism is usually understood as the thesis that past, present, and future things are all equally real. The significance of this debate has been threatened by the so-called triviality objection, which allegedly shows that the presentist thesis is either trivially true or obviously false: Presentism is trivially true if it is read as saying that everything that exists now is present, and (...) it is obviously false if read as saying that everything that has existed, exits or will exist is present. If eternalism is taken as the negation of presentism, it is also either trivially false or obviously true. In this paper, I try to respond to the triviality objection on behalf of presentism. In second section, I will examine how the argument proceeds. In third section, I will reflect on three possible ways to respond but will argue that none of them succeeds in giving a satisfactory solution. I will then try to clarify the core idea of presentism and to suggest that if we characterise presentism accurately, the problem will disappear. In fourth section, I will offer a plausible definition of presentism and will show how it can avoid the triviality objection and demonstrate why it is advantageous to accept the version of presentism I offer. (shrink)
In this critical notice we argue against William Craig's recent attempt to reconcile presentism (roughly, the view that only the present is real) with relativity theory. Craig's defense of his position boils down to endorsing a ‘neo-Lorentzian interpretation’ of special relativity. We contend that his reconstruction of Lorentz's theory and its historical development is fatally flawed and that his arguments for reviving this theory fail on many counts. 1 Rival theories of time 2 Relativity and the present 3 Special (...) relativity: one theory, three interpretations 4 Theories of principle and constructive theories 5 The relativity interpretation: explanatorily deficient? 6 The relativity interpretation: ontologically fragmented? 7 The space-time interpretation: does God need a preferred frame of reference? 8 The neo-Lorentzian interpretation: at what price? 9 The neo-Lorentzian interpretation: with what payoff? 10 Why we should prefer the space-time interpretation over the neo-Lorentzian interpretation 11 What about general relativity? 12 Squaring the tenseless space-time interpretation with our tensed experience. (shrink)
Abstract- Presentism And Temporal Experience Intuitively, we all believe that we experience change and the passage of time. Presentism prides itself as the most intuitive theory of time. However, a closer look at how we would experience temporality if presentism was true reveals that this is far from obvious. For if presentism was really so intuitive, then it would do justice to these intuitions. In the course of this article I examine how presentism fares when (...) combined with various leading theories of perception and temporal perception. I focused on two Central Questions. Can presentism, given theory X, account for experiences of change and duration? And can presentism, given theory X, account for experiences of time as passing? I argue that there is no possible combination which allows for an experience of time as passing. This result alone undermines the alleged intuitive advantage of presentism and with it the motivation for the view. Presentism, it remains safe to say, is not as intuitive a theory as its adherents like to portray it. (shrink)
Different versions of the A-theory of time are traditionally defined in terms of whether everything is present, or whether there are also past and future things. In this paper I argue that the traditional way of defining A-theories should be abandoned. I focus on the traditional definition of presentism, according to which always, everything is present. First, I argue that there are good reasons to reject all the most plausible interpretations of the predicate ‘is present’ as it appears in (...) the traditional definition of presentism. It follows that there are also good reasons to reject the most plausible interpretations of the traditional definitions of the other A-theories. I then argue that there is a better way of defining the A-theories, in terms of the question of whether existence has a beginning and an end. Finally, I argue that what goes for the traditional definition of presentism goes for the traditional definition of its modal analogue actualism, according to which necessarily, everything is actual : there are good reasons to reject the traditional definition of actualism in favour of a definition in terms of contingent existence. (shrink)
Presentists face a challenge from truthmaker theory: if you hold both that the only existing objects are presently existing and that truth supervenes on being, then you will be hard pressed to identify some existent on which a given true but traceless claim about the past supervenes. One reconciliation strategy, advocated by Cameron (2011), is to appeal to distributional properties so to serve as presently existing truthmakers for past truths. I argue that a presentist ought to deny that distributional properties (...) can serve as truthmakers. (shrink)
This paper argues that recent arguments to the effect that the debate between presentism and eternalism lacks any metaphysical substance ultimately fail, although important lessons can be gleaned from them in how to formulate a non-vacuous version of presentism. It suggests that presentism can best be characterized in the context of spacetime theories. The resulting position is an ersatzist version of presentism that admits merely non-present entities as abstracta deprived of physical existence. Ersatzist presentism both (...) escapes the charges of triviality and promises to offer a route to solving the grounding problem which befalls its more traditional cousins. (shrink)
Here, I defend the view that there is no sensible way to pin a truth-maker objection on presentism. First, I suggest that if we adopt truth-maker maximalism then the presentist can requisition appropriate ontological resources with impunity. Second, if we deny maximalism, then the presentist can sensibly restrict the truth-maker principle in order to avoid the demand for truth-makers for talk about the non-present.
Presentism is, roughly, the metaphysical doctrine that maintains that whatever exists, exists in the present. The compatibility of presentism with the theories of special and general relativity was much debated in recent years. It has been argued that at least some versions of presentism are consistent with time-orientable models of general relativity. In this paper we confront the thesis of presentism with relativistic physics, in the strong gravitational limit where black holes are formed. We conclude that (...) the presentist position is at odds with the existence of black holes and other compact objects in the universe. A revision of the thesis is necessary, if it is intended to be consistent with the current scientific view of the universe. (shrink)
The presentist view of time is psychologically appealing. I argue that, ironically, contingent facts about the temporal properties of consciousness are very difficult to square with presentism unless some form of mind/body dualism is embraced.
The truthmaker objection to presentism (the view that only what exists now exists simpliciter) is that it lacks sufficient metaphysical resources to ground truths about the past. In this paper I identify five constraints that an adequate presentist response must satisfy. In light of these constraints, I examine and reject responses by Bigelow, Keller, Crisp, and Bourne. Consideration of how these responses fail, however, points toward a proposal that works; one that posits God’s memories as truthmakers for truths about (...) the past. I conclude that presentists have, in the truthmaker objection, considerable incentive to endorse theism. (shrink)
We lay out the fatalist’s argument, making sure to clarify which dialectical moves are available to the libertarian. We then offer a more robust presentation of Ockhamism, responding to obvious objections and teasing out the implications of the view. At this point, we discuss presentism and eternalism in more detail. We then present our argument for the claim that the libertarian cannot take Ockham’s way out of the fatalism argument unless she rejects presentism. Finally, we consider and dispense (...) with objections to our argument. In the end, it ought to be clear that the libertarian must make a choice between Ockham’s way out and presentism. (shrink)
Presentism is the view that only present things exist (Hinchliff 1996: 123; Crisp 2004: 15; Markosian 2004: 47–48). So understood, presentism is an ontological doctrine; it’s a view about what exists (what there is), absolutely and unrestrictedly. The view is the subject of extensive discussion in the literature, with much of it focused on the problems that presentism allegedly faces. Thus, much of the literature that frames the development of presentism has grown up either in formulating (...) objections to the view (e.g., Sider 2001: 11–52), or in response to such objections (e.g., Bigelow 1996; Markosian 2004), with exceptions to this largely coming via the ways in which presentism is motivated. This entry mirrors the structure of that literature, for the most part. Here’s the plan for what follows. We begin with a more detailed sketch of presentism, its commitments and motivations. Then we move to consider several concerns that have been raised for presentists. We use these to illustrate both the breadth and severity of the challenges that presentism faces, as well as the range of different versions of presentism developed to help meet these challenges. (shrink)
Presentists standardly conform to the eternalist’s paradigm of treating all cases of property-exemplification as involving a single relation of instantiation. This, we argue, results in a much less parsimonious and philosophically explanatory picture than is possible if other alternatives are considered. We argue that by committing to primitive past and future tensed instantiation ties, presentists can make gains in both economy and explanatory power. We show how this metaphysical picture plays out in cases where an individual exists to partake in (...) facts about its past and future, and also in cases where that individual no longer exists, and proxies (or surrogates) for that thing must be found. (shrink)
Next SectionIn this article I offer a new version of presentism and argue that this new version of presentism is not a species of the A-theory. Along the way, I argue that Rasmussen’s recent attempt to articulate a version of presentism that is not also a version of the A-theory does not succeed.
Building on my previous writings on presentism, pluralism, and “complementary science”, I develop an activist view of historiography. I begin by recognizing the inevitability of presentism. Our own purposes and perspectives do and should guide the production of our accounts of the past; like funerals, history-writing is for the living. There are different kinds of presentist history, depending on the historians’ purposes and perspectives. My particular inclination is pluralist. Science remembers its own history from a particular perspective, which (...) views the past as imperfect versions of the present; if professional historians of science shared this perspective, our work would be redundant. Instead, we can make it our task to illuminate the aspects of the past of science that scientists themselves tend to ignore and forget. History of science can also take a more productive role in the creation and improvement of scientific knowledge. Scientific progress as we know it tends to involve the shutting down of alternative paths of inquiry, resulting in a loss of potential and actual knowledge. A critical and sympathetic engagement with the past allows us to recover the lost paths, which can also suggest new paths. These points will be illustrated by a number of examples, especially from the history of chemistry and physics, including the recovery and extension of past experiments. (shrink)
Presentists have typically argued that the Block View is incapable of explaining our experience of time. In this paper I argue that the phenomenology of our experience of time is, on the contrary, against presentism. My argument is based on a dilemma: presentists must either assume that the metaphysical present has no temporal extension, or that it is temporally extended. The former horn leads to phenomenological problems. The latter renders presentism metaphysically incoherent, unless one posits a discrete present (...) that, however, suffers from the same difficulties that the instantaneous present is prone to. After introducing the main phenomenological models of our experience of time that are discussed in the literature, I show that none of them favors presentism. I conclude by arguing that if even the phenomenology of time sides against presentism, the latter metaphysical theory has no scientific evidence in its favor and ought to be dropped. (shrink)
In this paper I will consider a number of responses to the grounding problem for presentism. I don’t think that the grounding problem is a damning problem for the presentist (it seems to me that presentism has much more serious problems with cross-time relations and relativity). But each of the solutions comes at a cost, and some are much pricier than others. I will set out what I take these costs to be when I examine each response to (...) the grounding problem. (shrink)
Abstract: Presentism is the view that whatever exists presently exists. Without defending Presentism, I argue first that Presentists should be Time-Free Presentists – Presentists whose views do not imply that there exist irreducible times. Second, I argue that Presentists should accept Limited Thick Presentism, the view that 'the present' has some extension and is thereby neither durationlessly thin nor unlimitedly 'thick'. Third, before addressing several objections to Limited Time-Free Thick Presentism [LTFTP], I argue that defenders of (...) LTFTP should accept that 'temporal becoming' involves an overlapping succession of present entities, not a 'skipping' from one set of present entities to the next discrete set. (shrink)
∗ 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.).
This essay offers a reaction to the recent resurgence of presentism in the philosophy of time. What is of particular interest in this renaissance is that a number of recent arguments supporting presentism are crafted in an untypically naturalistic vein, breathing new life into a metaphysics of time with a bad track record of co-habitation with modern physics. Against this trend, the present essay argues that the pressure on presentism exerted by special relativity and its core lesson (...) of Lorentz symmetry cannot easily be shirked. A categorization of presentist responses to this pressure is offered. As a case in point, I analyze a recent argument by Monton (2006) presenting a case for the compatibility of presentism with quantum gravity. Monton claims that this compatibility arises because there are quantum theories of gravity that use fixed foliations of spacetime and that such fixed foliations provide a natural home for a metaphysically robust notion of the present. A careful analysis leaves Monton's argument wanting. In sum, the prospects of presentism to be alleviated from the stress applied by fundamental physics are faint. (shrink)
One of the major difficulties facing presentism is the problem of causation. In this paper, I propose a new solution to that problem, one that is compatible with intrinsic, fundamental causal relations. Accommodating relations of this kind is important because (i) according to David Lewis (2004), such relations are needed to account for causation in our world and worlds relevantly similar to our own, (ii) there is no other strategy currently available that successfully reconciles presentism with relations of (...) this kind and (iii) resolving the problem of causation by accommodating intrinsic, fundamental causal relations provides the presentist with a far more general solution to the problem of causation than those currently on offer. (shrink)
The main claim that I want to defend in this paper is that the there are logical equivalences between eternalism and perdurantism on the one hand and presentism and endurantism on the other. By “logical equivalence” I mean that one position is entailed and entails the other. As a consequence of this equivalence, it becomes important to inquire into the question whether the dispute between endurantists and perdurantists is authentic, given that Savitt (2006) Dolev (2006) and Dorato (2006) have (...) cast doubts on the fact that the debate between presentism and eternalism is about “what there is”. In this respect, I will conclude that also the debate about persistence in time has no ontological consequences, in the sense that there is no real ontological disagreement between the two allegedly opposite positions: as in the case of the presentism/eternalism debate, one can be both a perdurantist and an endurantist, depending on which linguistic framework is preferred. (shrink)
It is often claimed that the debate between presentism and eternalism is merely verbal, because when we use tensed, detensed or tenseless notions of existence, there is no difference in the accepted metaphysical statements between the adherents of both views. On the contrary, it is shown in this paper that when we express their positions making use, in accordance with intentions of the presentists and the eternalists, of the tensed notion of existence (in the case of the presentists) and (...) the detensed or tenseless notion (in the case of the eternalists), the controversy remains deep and very important for us, because both ontological claims express a different attitude to the existence of the flow of time. It is shown that not only does the proposed approach to presentism and eternalism exactly express the intentions of the adherents of both views but it also offers a better understanding of them joining together seemingly different theses maintained by the presentists and the eternalists, and explaining at the same time the dynamism of the presentists' ontology. The paper takes for granted that we should assess metaphysical theories in a similar way as we assess scientific theories, that is on the basis of their explanatory value. (shrink)
Here I examine some recent attempts to provide a new way of thinking about the philosophy of time that question the central role of ‘presentness’ within the definition of presentism. The central concern raised by these critics turns on the intelligibility and theoretical usefulness of the term ‘is present’. My overarching aim is to at least challenge such concerns. I begin with arguments due to Deasy. Deasy develops a view that he calls ‘transientism’ and that he takes to be (...) a well-motivated version of presentism. I show that both this way of thinking about presentism and the argument supposedly motivating it all fail. I then move to an argument due to Correia and Rosenkrantz. Correia and Rosenkrantz purport to show that presentism can be salvaged without making recourse to the term ‘is present’. I demonstrate that their arguments fail. I then move on to a view, proposed and defended by Merricks, Tallant, and Zimmerman, and show that it has the wherewithal to meet the challenges raised by Williamson who, as noted above, raises genuine concerns about our capacity to define presentism. (shrink)
Typical presentism asserts that whatever exists is present. Moderate presentism more modestly claims that all events are present and thus acknowledges past and future times understood in a substantivalist sense, and past objects understood, following Williamson, as “ex-concrete.” It is argued that moderate presentism retains the most valuable features of typical presentism, while having considerable advantages in dealing with its most prominent difficulties.
Philosophers of time say that if presentism is true (i.e. if reality is comprised solely of presently existing things), then a complete description of reality must contain tensed terms, such as ‘was’, ‘presently is’ and ‘will be’. I counter this viewpoint by explaining how the presentist may de-tense our talk about times. I argue, furthermore, that, since the A-theory of time denies the success of any such de-tensing strategy, presentism is not a version of the A-theory – contrary (...) to the popular opinion. (shrink)
This paper defends three theses: that presentism is either trivial or untenable; that the debate between tensed and tenseless theories of time is not about the status of presentism; and that there is no temporal analogue of the modal thesis of actualism.
Presentists believe that only present things exist. But opponents insist this view has unacceptable implications: if only present things exist, we can’t express singular propositions about the past, since the obvious propositional constituents don’t exist, nor can we account for temporal passage, or the openness of the future. According to such opponents, and in spite of the apparent ‘common sense’ status of the view, presentism should be rejected on the basis of these unacceptable implications. In this paper, I present (...) and defend a version of presentism that avoids the unacceptable implications. The basic strategy I employ is familiar—I postulate presently existing entities to serve as surrogates for non-present entities—but some of the details of my proposal are more novel, and their application to these problems is certainly novel. One overarching thesis of this paper is that Thisness Presentism is preferable to other versions of presentism since it solves important problems facing standard iterations of the view. And I assume that this is a good positive reason in favour of the underlying thisness ontology. (shrink)
How can we talk meaningfully about the past if it does not exist to be talked about? What gives time its direction? Is time travel possible? This defence of presentism - the view that only the present exists - makes an original contribution to a fast growing and exciting debate.
There is a philosophical tradition of arguing against presentism, the thesis that only presently existing things exist, on the basis of its incompatibility with fundamental physics. I grant that presentism is incompatible with special and general relativity, but argue that presentism is not incompatible with quantum gravity, because there are some theories of quantum gravity that utilize a fixed foliation of spacetime. I reply to various objections to this defense of presentism, and point out a flaw (...) in Gödel's modal argument for the ideality of time. This paper provides an interesting case study of the interplay between physics and philosophy. (shrink)