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Saturday, March 09, 2013

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On the problem of formulating Presentism, another idea occurred to me. Markosian talks of existence as being in the range of our most unrestricted quantifiers, which he contrasts with existence now, or in the present. It strikes me that this 'being in the range of a quantifier' is precisely the notion of tenselessness that you want. Now the problem hasn't completely gone away. We speak of 'being in the range' – do we express this 'being' with- a tense or not? E.g. if we say 'Caesar is in the range of 'some men'', does the emphasised 'is' have a tense or not? On the other hand, there is a clear sense in which a noun, as opposed to a verb, has no tense. (Aristotle mentions this early in the Perihermenias, the medieval philosophers discussed it extensively, and Geach mentions it somewhere, probably Logic Matters). Is the tenselessness of a noun a possible solution to the problem of formulating Presentism?

By the way, some of the issues here are discussed in my forthcoming book 'Time and Existence' (now at the typesetters, from there to the proofreaders, and from there to the bookshop).

You are on to something, Ed.

Suppose the presentist says: Only temporally present items are within the range of our most unrestricted quantifiers.

Is the 'are' in the present tense? If yes, then triviality.

What does 'most unrestricted' mean? Are we to quantify over past, present, and future actualia AND possibilia too? (Think David Lewis.)

I would say that even with our quantifiers 'wide open' we can only quantify over what exists. But then the Markosian detour via quantifiers avails nothing: we are back to existence.

Congrats on the book. Please send me your table of contents.

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