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Monday, July 18, 2011

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"In my experience, the problems associated with time are the most difficult in all of philosophy."

Another option is perdurance/ Whitehead saw the puzzle of existence thru time as self directed occasions of experience that are nevertheless constrained by immanence that relates all events:

Perception and memory are the primary types of creature prehension, both of which Charles Hartshorne, a follower of ANW, says are “intuitions (feelings) of the past.” For ANW. the actual present occasion is brief and CLOSELY bounded by an immediate objective past and undetermined future. He often uses speech to exemplify this idea, as well as how the past is immanent in the present (future w/r just past). Before we finish a sentence, the first words are already in the past and grasped as consciously present via prehension. ANW says ‘we finish sentences because of our past urge to start them’ – this urge retains its causal grip, its immanence into its future. Thus, even the undetermined future is immanent in the actual present as aim.


I do agree with the last sentence. It was once reported to me that van Inwagen had said that he didn't do philosophy of time because it was too hard. I find that it's often impossible to even get philosophers of time to even agree on what terms mean, terms like "presentism".

But we do seem to agree about the definition of presentism. Or perhaps I should say that we don't yet disagree. What you say seems right, but it might no go far enough. I think it unwise for the presentist to pack the thesis that all things are temporal into her definition of presentism. The definition that you give does pack this in. I also think it unwise for her to pack in the thesis that ours is the only world. (I use "world" as Lewis does. It's a maximally connected hunk of space-time together with all of its constituents.) But again, you definition packs this in.

So I suggest that the definition of "presentism" should go something like this: all this-world temporal items exist at present.

Second point. Your objections to presentism are among the hardest to answer. Perhaps you'd like to discuss them at length, but I haven't the heart (or the space) to begin a reply here.

Last point. I think that your "exists simpliciter" is the primary sense of the term. Indeed I think that it is really the only sense of the term. All that I can think to say about its sense and scope is this: necessarily, absolutely everything exists. If that doesn't get at what it means, then I have no idea how to do so. Now, one might reply that there are really many senses of "exist", one of which is the temporal sense. I don't think that this is right. If one says "S exists" and supposes that "exists" has a temporal sense, one has really said two things; what one has said is conjuctive. How so? (Let "exists(t)" denote the temporal sense of "exists".) S exists(t) = S exists (in the only sense that anything of any sort can be said to exist) and S is temporal.

Perhaps the point should be made again. As regards existence, all there is is having it or not. (I don't much like how that's said, but it does make the point.) There aren't kinds of existence, and when it might look as if there are (as with, for instance, temporal existence) there's just existence with some other property attached.

How's that for a set of assertions with no argument in sight? Hope it helps us along, though.

Hey Burl.

I don't mean to sound flippant, but isn't what you said phenomenology, not metaphysics?

Franklin,

Thanks for addressing what I actually wrote, unlike the first two guys. Your first criticism is excellent. Presentism is more plausible when restricted to temporal items and so the definition should run:

P*. The only temporal items that exist simpliciter are items that presently exist.

I plead innocent of the second criticism, though. My defn. is neutral on the question whether presentism holds only in our world or in all worlds.

And I agree that everything exists. I am also strongly inclined to say that that is a necessary truth. Hence there are no, and can be no, nonexistent items, pace Meinong. So far, so good.

But does the foregoing give us all we need to understand 'exists simpliciter'? I don't think so.

You agree, I take it, that presentism is not a tautology. It is not the claim that only what exists at present exists at present. It is the claim (restricted to temporal items if you wish) that only what exists at present exists simpliciter.

Nor is presentism an analytic truth. We cannot verify it simply by analyzing 'exists.' And of course it is not as mere stipulation. How then do we know that it is true?

How does your presentism bear on your view of haecceities?

I must plead guilty, Franklin. I spent my thoughts setting up the 'umvelt' of Whitehead's perdurantist metaphysics.

A more focused reply to Bill’s post is that nothing exists changelessly. It is only in the present that any process of becoming or any activity of change can happen for an existent (James’ ‘specious present.’) The future is a non-existent. The past is unchangeable existents having perished from a specious present – brute fact.

Bill,

You asked two questions. Unfortunately though I have two answers I have only one argument.

First the non-argument. What's my reason for presentism? I suspect that you'll be less than impressed if I say that I think it obvious. The inference "Mason finds p obvious, thus p" is about as bad as they come.

However, I do think it obvious. It seems to me the only way that one could explain the inexorable "flow" of our experience of time. (I wish that I could dispense with that metaphor, but I'm afraid that I cannot.) If past and future were real, all past and future experience would be real; and if that were true, there would be no experience of temporal succession. If the past and future were real, our present experience and all our past experience would be like a fly caught in amber (albeit a four-dimensional amber). It was all just be there, and there could not be that experience of first this, now that which is constitutive of our experience of time.

One might reply that at most this shows that not both past and future are real. But I suspect ("hope" is perhaps the better word) that even the supposition that of past, present and future, only past and present are real also runs counter to our experience of time. My past experiences are clearly now "live" for me now. All I've got in the present.

(Well, I'm a bit surprised. That does look like an argument after all.)

What does presentism have to do with haecceitism? I suspect though I cannot prove that the former requires the latter. The presentist can't make use of (wholly) past items in her attempt to provide truth-makers for past-tense propositions. She needs stand-ins. Haecceities are made to order.

Franklin,

Good comments once again. Your second argument could be put like this:

1. There are true past-tense propositions, e.g.. 'JFK was killed in 1963.'
2. Past individuals and past events do not exist at all. (Presentism)
3. Contingent truths need existing truth-makers. (T-maker principle)
4. Nothing past is an existing truth-maker.
Therefore
5. There is the abstract haecceity-property JFK-ness and it, together with other abstracta, form the T-maker of 'JFK was killed in 1963.'

Note that this argument requires you to adopt a restricted presentism, a version of presentism restricted to temporal items. For you also need abstracta whose existence is not their existence at present. This seems to commit you to a doctrine of modes of existence. There is the existence of temporal items which is presentness, and there is the existence of atemporal items which of course is not presentness. How are these modes related?

Alan Rhoda has a paper in which he brings in God and his memory to solve the problem. So he doesn't need haecceities.

My problem, though, is with the very idea of a haecceity property such as identity-with-JFK. It is simply ioncomprehensible to me how such a property, which needs to be able to exist unexemplified, can exist unexemplfied.

In fact, I am so sure that there are no haecceities of the sort you need, that presentism just must be false if the only way to deal with past-tense truths is by invoking haecceities of nonexistent individuals.

There are at least three options on the table: presentism, B-theory (eternalism), and the view (I don't know what to call it) that past and present temporal items, but no future items, exist. As you realize, your first argument at most gets rid of the B-theory. So that's a problem.

>>If past and future were real, all past and future experience would be real; and if that were true, there would be no experience of temporal succession.<<

Is that right? I should think that the reality of past experiencings is consistent with the experience of temporal succession. The latter requires a self that remains the same over time and that retains something like a memory of the earlier experience. Why should it require that an experiencing, once it is over, cease to exist?

In fact, if yesterday's experiences do not exist all, then my memories of what I did yesterday cannot be veridical, as surely some of them are. For when I remember yesterday's river excursion, what I am remembering are not the physical events themselves, but my past experiencings of those physical events.

Tricky stuff, eh?

I have posted a couple of objections against presentism in a previous post, one of which Bill also posted in a different form in the present post. So I shall simply copy one objection he did not address in the present thread.

The *Thickness* Problem: How thick is the present? One could maintain that for any magnitude defined as the *now*, there is a smaller magnitude. Hence, strictly speaking, the presentist must maintain that the present is the smallest magnitude. But there is no smallest magnitude, since for any magnitude of time, one could chop it up further. So the presentist must select a certain interval of time as *the present*. But any such choice is arbitrary.

"But there is no smallest magnitude, since for any magnitude of time, one could chop it up further."

That may not be the case. If I'm not mistaken, there is, according to current understanding, a smallest magnitude (increment?) of time given by a particular combination of physical constants. I believe it's called the "plank time".

Again, my apologies is this is terribly irrelevant or off topic.

Having said that, and at the risk of further dismissal, it seems to me that P and P* still suffer from the same central fault which is that "presently" or "at present" have no invariant meaning for spatially separated events.

To define presentism would, I think, at least require an agreement on precisely what "at present" or "the present" *is*.

Alfred,

But of course if you assume STR then presentism doesn't even come up for discussion.

Peter,

Franklin might say that presentism is a theory in phenomenological ontology, and so the present cannot be experienced as thinner and thinner and thinner.

Bill,

I am not sure I understand how "phenomenological ontology" would work here. I thought the debate is about the metaphysics of time, not phenomenology: i.e., what really exists, only present things or present as well as past things?

Peter,

I suspect that you won't like this, but here it is: the present has the thickness of a point. It's zero-dimensional.

Why? If not, your argument has bite.


Bill,

So, I take it that your objection isn't to the view that there's such a thing as identity-with-Socrates. Instead it's to the view that that identity-with-Socrates might exist unexemplified. If it existed but did so only when exemplified, would you embrace the existence of such haecceities? (I apologize if you've made yourself clear about this before. I still feel at sea.)

If I'm right, here's a follow-up question. Do you insist that all properties must be exemplified, or do you think this true only of haecceities? If the latter (as I suspect), what makes haecceities special in this regard? Is it their supposed ability to latch onto a not-yet-existent individual? That doesn't seem at all mysterious to me. One can easily build properties that will come to be exemplified by precisely one individual. Moreover some such can be exemplified by at most one individual.

So, if there' a mystery here, it's the ability of a property to latch onto one and the same individual no matter the world or time at which it exists. (I suspect that the worry is about concreta only, and among the concreta only those that come to be. Each abstracta has many properties that only it can have.)

I don't get it. If this was face to face, I'd shrug my shoulders and say, "Yea, so what?".

Let me press the issue. I think you've got it backwards. I think that it would be utterly mysterious if there were no such properties as heacceities. There are lots of worlds exactly like (at least as regards "pure" properties) ours for the extent of Socrates' existence. If every one contains Socrates, this seems to suggest that the identity of indiscernibles is true. But you reject that. So let's consider the alternative. If some don't contain Socrates, one would like to know why. This is the sort of thing that just has to have an explanation. Looks like Socrates, talks like Socrates, is exactly like Socrates (and the world around is just like Socrates' world) - but isn't Socrates. How in the world could that be? Haecceities provide the needed explanation.

So, here's the idea: if there are no haecceities and the identity of indiscernibles is false, then there are utterly mysterious non-identities between individuals at different worlds. Such non-identities are (as I once heard said) creatures of darkness. (I've given this argument twice before in comments on other posts, but I doubt that I was clear.)

Pick your poison, I suppose. Either heacceities or ungrouded inter-world non-identities.

Franklin,

Well I thought I did make it quite clear what my objection was to Plantingian haecceity properties. I do not object to the notion of haecceity in general, as does Edward the Nominalist; I object to specific theories of haecceity. Thus I object to the notion that a haecceity is (i) a property that is not a constituent of the thing that has it; (ii) is a necessary being; (iii) exists unexemplified at times and in possible worlds at which the thing of which it is the haecceity does not exist.

I'm a constituent ontologist; so for me the haecceity of x is an ontological constituent of x. Plantinga is a nonconstituent ontologist. I trust you are familiar with this distinction.

I never said that all properties must be exemplified.

I think what you are missing is that Plantingian haecceities are nonqualitative: they are not constructible from pure properties, but involve the very individual whose haecceity they are.

>> One can easily build properties that will come to be exemplified by precisely one individual. Moreover some such can be exemplified by at most one individual.<<

This is true but irrelevant. I already made this point and dealt with it. The property of being the fastest marathoner, if exemplified is exemplified by exactly one individual. But it could be that different individuals exemplify it at different times. So consider the property of being the fastest marathoner at time t. In different worlds different individuals exemplify this property. So this property doesn't nail down the thisness of any individual either. This is why people reach for identity. They then speak of such properties as identity-with-Socrates, identity-with-Plato, etc.
But as I said several times already, these properties involve the very individual whose haecceity they are supposed to be. Hence it is absurd to suppose that they can exist unexemplified. Isn't that self-evident? Robert Adams made essentially this point in a JP article from around 1979.

I suggest you are confusing the notion of a qualitative thisness with that of a nonqualitative thisness. Evidence of the confusion is the bit of text I just quoted.


More tomorrow.

Franklin,

"I suspect that you won't like this, but here it is: the present has the thickness of a point. It's zero-dimensional"

Indeed, I don't like it; and for a good reason. Nothing (other than abstract things) can exist in a thickness of a point having zero dimensions. If presentism is to make sense at all, it must allow for some things to exist; e.g., Bill currently exists. But, Bill cannot exist in a zero dimensional point of time. Hence, presentism makes no sense.

Peter,

Nothing (other than abstract things) can exist in a thickness of a point having zero dimensions.

Tell me if I am reading you wrong: no conctrete individual, such as Dr. Vallicella, can be extended in some dimension to an extent of zero; thus, there are no concrete individuals corresponding to the geometers' points, lines, and planes, for such entities have an extension of zero in some dimension. But Dr. Vallicella, if he existed only for a zero-point of time, would have an extension of zero in the dimension time; therefore, any theory requiring him to do so is false; therefore, Mr. Mason's presentism is false.

However, that time constitutes a fourth dimension is precisely among the things that (most) presentists would probably deny, so I don't see (if, again, I'm not misreading you) that your objection has much force unless you also have a strong case for four-dimensionalism to accompany it.

Bill
>>
1. There are true past-tense propositions, e.g.. 'JFK was killed in 1963.'
2. Past individuals and past events do not exist at all. (Presentism)
3. Contingent truths need existing truth-makers. (T-maker principle)
4. Nothing past is an existing truth-maker.
Therefore
5. There is the abstract haecceity-property JFK-ness and it, together with other abstracta, form the T-maker of 'JFK was killed in 1963.'
<<

Step 4 is a clear consequence of 2 (if no past item now exists, then clearly no past truth-maker now exists). (1) is patently true. (3) I am not sure about (being a nominalist), but let’s grant it for now. How does that all imply (5)?

Don’t we need a supplementary premiss, on the lines of

(3a) A truth maker for a singular proposition of the form ‘a is F’ consists of a haecceity property a-ness, plus other abstracta

?

Franklin
>>I think that it would be utterly mysterious if there were no such properties as haecceities. There are lots of worlds exactly like (at least as regards "pure" properties) ours for the extent of Socrates' existence.

I find it utterly mysterious that there would be such properties, so we are some distance philosophically. I also find it utterly mysterious that ‘there are lots of worlds exactly like ours’. What is the scientific evidence for such worlds? We have no observational data about them, and science so far seems to have managed without them. Naturally I agree that Socrates was philosopher but that Socrates might have been a farmer, but I don’t see why that is scientific evidence for the existence of another world, i.e. a world where Socrates actually is a farmer.

Franklin writes, >>So, here's the idea: if there are no haecceities and the identity of indiscernibles is false, then there are utterly mysterious non-identities between individuals at different worlds.<<

Let's confine ourselves to one world, ours, the actual world. Do you find it utterly mysterious that there is non-identity between A and B when A and B are indiscernible by any pure property?

Do you accept the Identity of Indiscernibles? I don't. Is this perhaps a source of our disagreement?

Edward writes against Franklin: >>Naturally I agree that Socrates was philosopher but that Socrates might have been a farmer, but I don’t see why that is scientific evidence for the existence of another world, i.e. a world where Socrates actually is a farmer.<<

Here I must stick up for Franklin. Scientific evidence is not relevant here; modal intuitions are.

You have the modal intuition that S. might have been a farmer. Good. Now consider the maximal collection of what all else would have had to have been the case had S. been a farmer. For example, had he been a farmer, he would probably not have had any influence on Plato, etc. etc.

A merely possible world is a total (maximal) way things might have been. The actual world is the way things are. Why are you stumbling over these elementary points?

Your use of 'actual' also shows misunderstanding, I think. There are possible worlds in which S. is a farmer. But those are merely possible (i.e. nonactual) worlds. To say that S. exists in them is just to say that, had any one of them been actual, then S. would have been a farmer.

Leo,

"However, that time constitutes a fourth dimension is precisely among the things that (most) presentists would probably deny, so I don't see (if, again, I'm not misreading you) that your objection has much force unless you also have a strong case for four-dimensionalism to accompany it."

You got my view right, except that it is up to the presentist to tell us how they view time (as an additional dimension or what?). And it is up to the presentist to tell us how, according to their view, contingent individuals can exist in a temporal thickness that equals zero.

Peter,

You got my view right, except that it is up to the presentist to tell us how they view time (as an additional dimension or what?).

Not surprisingly, I hold to the (at least broadly) Aristotelean view that time is a measure of the prior and posterior with respect to motion/change. No doubt there are other analyses of time available to the presentist, but that is beside the point. And that point is this: your objection to presentism presupposes the truth of a hotly contested and, in many ways, deeply counterintuitive philosophical thesis, viz. four-dimensionalism. Perhaps that thesis is correct, but until you have forced your presentist into conceding it, he has no reason to fear your objection.

And it is up to the presentist to tell us how, according to their view, contingent individuals can exist in a temporal thickness that equals zero.

But only a four-dimensionalist presentist need do so. Three-dimensionalists like myself will simply deny that concrete individuals have any "temporal thickness" in the requisite sense, including a thickness of zero, since talk of such thickness only makes sense in the context of four-dimensionalism.

Leo says: "Three-dimensionalists like myself will simply deny that concrete individuals have any "temporal thickness" in the requisite sense, including a thickness of zero, since talk of such thickness only makes sense in the context of four-dimensionalism."

I assume you are speaking of the three dimensions of space. So where is the account of time according to this version of presntism? I am not sure I get it. If there are three dimensions of space and time is not a dimension, then what is it?

Of course, my original objection was stated against Frnaklin's version of presentism, which I took to be what you call, four-dimensionalism.

Peter,

As I said, time can be given a number of non-four-dimensionalist construals, my favoured being Aristotle's account of a measure of what is before and after what else with respect to change/motion. But why would construing time as a dimension be the default position, which you seem to be assuming?

Time is not a dimension because it is not a part of Socrates that exists at a time t, but rather Socrates proper. To view time as a dimension requires seeing Socrates as extended throughout a fourth dimension, with different little Socrates-slices existing at different times, just as with the three spatial dimensions. This notion I find, for various reasons, hard to swallow.

Am I not making myself clear? If so, please tell me where to elaborate.

Leo,

I do not understand how the Aristotelian conception of time that involves "a measure of what is before and after what else with respect to change/motion." is not a dimensionalist account. After all, if an event occurs and there is a *before* and *after*, then there is a dimension. What else could that mean? Unless, of course, you take some sort of an instrumentalist view of time, where time does not really exists out there. Instead, time is just our way of measuring sequences of events. However, I do not see how an instrumentalist approach can be compatible with a presentists view, since the later maintains that only present entities exist. How would one construe such a claim if the present does not really exist?

Peter,

I do not understand how the Aristotelian conception of time that involves "a measure of what is before and after what else with respect to change/motion." is not a dimensionalist account.

It is not a four-dimensionalist account (in the sense I am using the phrase), because it does not licence talk of individuals being extended throughout time as in space, with different "slices" existing at different times.

After all, if an event occurs and there is a *before* and *after*, then there is a dimension.

Again, you can define "dimension" broadly enough to capture anything where different units are before or after others, but wouldn't this apply to the number series, too? And anyway, what here gives us a right to talk, not about different events/changes/motions being differently distributed, but individuals being extended throughout time with different temporal slices at different times?

Leo,

I am still unclear about the positive view you hold; I understand that you deny dimensionalism in the sense of being extended throughout time. But then how do you account for the existence of an individual during a certain interval of time.

Clearly, when 'before' and 'after' apply to the number series, it means larger or smaller (or you can define them in terms of the ordering relation). But when these terms are used with respect to time, then they mean something else.

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