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Wednesday, May 01, 2019

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I could think of only linguistic facts and the ontological facts. Linguistic facts are true propositions; ontological facts are truthmaking unities or states of affairs in Armstrong's sense here or yours here. But Ed is such a sharp fellow that I kept wondering whether there was some third sense of fact that I didn't know or something.

I also wondered whether, in spite of Ed's language (“fact about”), he thought that there were past tense ontological facts in the world, viz. the apple's having been red alongside the apple's being green, where “world” is taken in Grossmann's sense and contrasted with “universe”.

I'm still not entirely sure that I'm catching everything, but it's nice to know that if not I'm not the only one.

Bill, it seems to me that you and Ed are talking past each other on a critical point. Ed seems to be relying on a concept of a fact or state of affairs which can exist in the present though its constituents do not. That is, "Caesar was assassinated" is a fact that exists now, although Caesar and the event itself no longer do.

You talked around this, but you seemed to assume that such a thing is impossible rather than directly addressing the possibility, so I'm not sure that you picked up on it.

Thanks for the comment, Dave.

>>Ed seems to be relying on a concept of a fact or state of affairs which can exist in the present though its constituents do not. That is, "Caesar was assassinated" is a fact that exists now, although Caesar and the event itself no longer do.<<

But that makes no sense, as I argued. The proposition expressed by 'Caesar was assassinated' is true. It IS true, now. What makes it true? It can't be that very proposition. You can't say, for example, that the proposition that Bill is seated is made true by the proposition that Bill is seated. That should be obvious. If it isn't, I'll explain it to you.

What makes it true that I am seated is not a proposition, but a concrete state of affairs which is not a proposition. Now this item cannot exist unless its constituents exist. So If I suddenly ceased to exist, the state of affairs would cease to exist and the proposition that Bill is seated would cease to be true.

Same with the prop. expressed by 'Caesar was assassinated.' On presentism, there is no truth-making state of affairs.

Now please explain to me "a fact or state of affairs which can exist in the present though its constituents do not."

If you can do this, then you will have refuted me and defended Ed.

Suppose the world presently possesses attributes such as *Caesar's having been assassinated*. If this makes sense, then maybe the fact that the world possesses this attribute serves as the truth-maker for the proposition 'Caesar was assassinated.'

Actually, Bill, I can't imagine what a fact would be as distinct from either a proposition or a state of affairs. You have addressed propositions at length and noted in passing that if there are past states of affairs, then those states of affairs exist in some sense, and so do their constituents. I don't disagree with any of that.

My concern was that--in my reading--Ed seems to just assume that a past state of affairs can exist though its constituents do not exist, and--in my reading--you didn't address this other than to deny it; though I'm not sure what else you can do against such a bald assumption.

Elliot,

What you are suggesting is known in the literature as a Lucretian solution. The idea is that there are primitive past-directed properties such as the property of being such that Caesar was assassinated. Well, Marilyn Monroe had that property along with other rather more impressive attributes, but that won't help us because she is a wholly past individual. So we need something that exists now. The physical universe might do the trick. It now has the property of being such that Caesar was assassinated. So the truth-making fact is the universe's being such that Caesar was assassinated. This fact exists at present.

This strikes me as more of a joke than a real solution. These past-directed properties are suspicious. The generation of properties such that . . . . is way too promiscuous for my taste.

There is also this to consider: the universe either will or could cease to exist. But 'Caesar was assassinated' cannot ever become either false or truth-value-less.

A way around this would be to make Chisholm's move: the property of being blue, a necessarily existent abstract object, is now such that Caesar was assassinated. But again this strikes me as bizarre. A timeless entity, the property of being blue, is invoked as part of the T-maker of a truth that is about a temporal entity, Caesar!

It might be better just to say that past-tensed truths are brute truths which, as brute, need no truth-makers. But that would be no good either.

Bill, you wrote: "There is also this to consider: the universe either will or could cease to exist. But 'Caesar was assassinated' cannot ever become either false or truth-value-less." Good point.

"It might be better just to say that past-tensed truths are brute truths which, as brute, need no truth-makers. But that would be no good either." I don't like this move, either. It seems ad hoc.

Chisholm's move seem strange. Beside what you said about it, it seems to me that this move wouldn't count as strict presentism, since abstract objects are timeless rather than present entities.

That's a good point, Elliot. Is presentism supposed to hold for all entities or only for temporal entities?

If the former, then presentism rules out timeless entities such as God, conceived as eternal as opposed to omnitemporal. If the latter, then presentism cannot be a thesis about what is is to exist, namely, to exist = to be temporally present, but must be a thesis about some existents, namely, every temporal object is present.

Bill, one thing that would be really interesting to me is a discussion of how one cashes out the language of whether the past exists or does not. Do the three common concepts of time really change anything about what anyone thinks can be said or known about past or future events?

I can see that eternalism might be taken to support fatalism, but it doesn't have to. What I'd like to know is what you and Ed are really arguing about.

>>the three common concepts of time<<

And what might these be?

>>What I'd like to know is what you and Ed are really arguing about.<<

That is what I would like to know too, Dave. Your comment is more profound than you perhaps realize.

Before we can decide whether presentism is true, we have to know what exactly it is. I seriously doubt that a formulation can be given that stands up to close scrutiny. And of course there same goes for 'eternalism,' its main competitor. Has anyone ever given an adequate account of what tenseless existence is?

Stay tuned. I am 'presently' obsessing over these questions.

By "the three common concepts of time", I meant presentism, eternalism, and the view that the present and past exist but not the future. I thought you had referred to that view at one point, but I may be mis-remembering.

>>Before we can decide whether presentism is true, we have to know what exactly it is. I seriously doubt that a formulation can be given that stands up to close scrutiny.

I suggested one by email a while ago.

(1) Trivial presentism is that what no longer exists no longer exists.

(2) Metaphysical presentism is that there is no distinction between ‘exists’ and ‘presently exists’. The ‘presently’ is otiose. The (metaphysical) anti-presentist by contrast holds that something can exist without presently existing.

Ostrich,

I added, "that stands up to close scrutiny." You will of course grant that all sorts of persons and things have existed that do not exist now, and that all sorts of events occurred that are not occurring now, e.g., the London blitz in WWII.

I believe I can show that presentists cannot account adequately for the reality of the past, and that therefore what you call metaphysical presentism is not plausibly regarded as true, and in that sense, does not stand up to close scrutiny.

Right but I was simply offering a definition. Do you agree with the definition?

Yes, that's the basic idea. The present alone exists. But you see, don't you, that 'exists' in the preceding sentence cannot be in the present tense.

Now here is a little puzzle for you.

'Only the present exists' is ambiguous as between

a) Only this present exists

and

b) Only the present present exists.

Which of these two will you plump for?

>>The present alone exists. But you see, don't you, that 'exists' in the preceding sentence cannot be in the present tense.

Actually I don't see. Why can't it be in the present tense? Or is your point that, if metaphysical presentism is to be a universal and timeless truth, then it must be, er, timeless.

>>'Only the present exists' is ambiguous as between a) Only this present exists and b) Only the present present exists.

Not sure I follow.

Why strain at a gnat?

For presentism to be a substantive metaphysical thesis, as opposed to a tautology, the 'exists' in 'Only the present exists' cannot be in the present tense.

Is that not blindingly obvious? Only the present exists at present is a tautology.

I am beginning to get it, I think. If the statement ‘only the present exists’ is a substantive metaphysical thesis, it must be more than just a trivial analytic statement, true in virtue of grammatical tense.

But why should the presentist hold that it is a ‘substantive metaphysical thesis’? It is the anti-presentist who believes in substantive metaphysical theses. The anti-presentist holds that ‘present’ qualifies ‘exists’ so that ‘exists at present’ adds something to ‘exists’, leaving the possibility that some things do not exist at present.

But the presentist may deny that ‘at present’ adds any such thing. He is putting forward not a substantive metaphysical thesis, but rather a substantive thesis about language, a thesis about the meaning of ‘exists’ and ‘at present’.

I think I mentioned before that ‘present’ derives from Latin ‘prae-sum’, hence is a derivative of the verb esse, to be.

It seems it is for you to prove that presentism is not a thesis about the meaning of language, but rather a 'metaphysical' thesis, whatever that is.

It is the anti-presentist who believes in substantive metaphysical theses. The anti-presentist holds that ‘present’ qualifies ‘exists’ so that ‘exists at present’ adds something to ‘exists’, leaving the possibility that some things do not exist at present.

Presentists typically want to set presentism in contrast to eternalism and growing block, which the insubstantive thesis is compatible with.

(I wrote this and then checked the blog home page to see that Bill already has a full length post on it. I'll post anyway.)

BV:
Same with the prop. expressed by 'Caesar was assassinated.' On presentism, there is no truth-making state of affairs.
Now please explain to me "a fact or state of affairs which can exist in the present though its constituents do not."
If you can do this, then you will have refuted me and defended Ed.

Let me try. On presentism, Caesar's being assassinated is the truth-making state of affairs (the truth-making fact/deed/factum). Because this truth-maker no longer exists (in its own concrete, mind-independent existence), it makes true precisely the proposition 'Caesar was assassinated,' as opposed to the proposition 'Caesar is being (or will be) assassinated.'

So is the truth-making state of affairs/fact/deed really still mind-independent? Yes and no. In terms of its intrinsic nature, certainly it is mind-independent. In terms of its extrinsic property of truth-making, it is not mind-independent (consider that properly speaking the intellect is the locus of truth and truth-making). So in particular, the truth-making fact/state of affair's actual truth-making is not independent of its mental context, in particular the temporal context (t1 or t2 or t3) of its (mental) utterance (of its being proposed/thought).

Obviously "it makes true precisely..." = "it is the presently existing truth-maker for precisely..."

Precisely because the truth-maker you cite does not exist, it is not available to make true 'Caesar was assassinated.'

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