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Friday, December 31, 2010


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Since the present-solipsist position is not only absurd but false, clearly nothing can lie in between that position and triviality. Surely more proof, if it were needed, that there can be no 'metaphysical' position beyond the trivial and banal?

But seriously, using the quantification theory ('supposition theory') used by the medieval scholastics, it may be possible to express the presentist thesis in a way that is less trivial. The scholastics were concerned with the way that a quantified term 'reaches out' or 'lasso's' the objects within its range. If I say 'soon some people will be paying more tax', the range of 'some people' is clearly presently existing individuals living in the UK (read today's papers). But if I say 'in a hundred years some people will be living on Mars), clearly the quantifier lasso is capturing individuals or 'supposita' that do not yet exist.

The problem for the scholastics, who were presentists (following Augustine, who held that the past exists only 'in memoria') was to explain how there can be a presently existing relation (supposition) between the quantifying term and its range of 'supposita', given that some supposita don't exist. There were many fanciful and strange theories about this.

I am also wondering whether Augustine counts as a present-solipsist. His claim that all past tense statements can be analysed into present-tense ones (i.e. 'Caesar was a man' = 'Caesar is a having-existed man') looks that way. On the other hand, if he agrees with the analysis, how could he disagree with the past tense statement? Perhaps he means that there is something that the non-presentists wants to say by 'Caesar existed', but which cannot be said, or is untrue. Is this close to what you are saying here? There is something that the presentist wants to say, but it is hard to see how he can express it without saying something manifestly absurd or false.

Apologies if I haven't understood what you are getting at here.

Happy New Year (but is it really a New Year? - was there an old one at all?)

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