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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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>> note that 'X has ceased to exist' is ambiguous as between a) X has ceased to presently-exist (or present-tensedly exist) and b) X has ceased to be anything at all (and thus has become nothing at all).<<

But then I don’t understand why 'X does not still exist' cannot be similarly ambiguous between ‘X is not still [or ‘is no longer’] presently-existing’ and ‘X is not still [or ‘any longer’ something at all’.

It would have been easier for you to have rejected, from the very beginning, the consequence ‘X is no longer temporally present, therefore X does not exist [or ‘X is not something’]’, while pointing out to the unwary that the ‘exist’ in the consequent must be read tenselessly. Relying on the verb ‘cease’ to force a tenseless reading is confusing.

Does that represent your position better? The argument is then about whether such a tenseless sense of ‘exist’ is semantically valid.

That's a good comment. My formulation was not the best. This would have been clearer:

'X is no longer temporally present' does not entail 'X does not tenselessly exist'

similarly as

'X is not longer spatially present' does not entail 'X is does not now exist.

>>The argument is then about whether such a tenseless sense of ‘exist’ is semantically valid.<<

Do you mean: whether there is such a sense in ordinary, pre-philosophical English? I would say that there is. Back in the day we learned that 2 + 2 is 4. Was the teacher's use of 'is' present- tensed? No. Suppose she said, 'The number of blonde girls in this class is two.' Such a use of 'is' is present-tensed.

Suppose I say to my class, 'Hume is an empiricist.' Is that bad English? Should I have said that Hume WAS an empiricist? If it is good or acceptable English, is my use of 'is' tenseless?


>>Suppose I say to my class, 'Hume is an empiricist.'

Interesting example. You have inspired me to read Scotus 1.39 again - the famous discussion of God's certain foreknowledge of future events, and of the whole of eternity.

Scotus says that eternity is not like a stick fixed in a river, through which the whole river flows past. "If eternity were a sort of static thing (like the stick), alongside which time flowed, so that there were nothing present to it except a single instant of time (just as there is nothing present to the stick at any one time except a single part of the river), eternity would not be immense in respect of time."

My translation.

But he goes on to say that eternity is immense with respect to time. I.e. Just as all of space is to a single point in space, so eternity is to a single point in time.

So perhaps the idea of space-time did not begin with Einstein.

But more later.

Well, there is nothing new under the sun, and according to Richard Sorabji (Time, Creation, and the Continuum, p. 32 et seq.) Iamblichus anticipates McTaggart's distinction between the A-series and the B-series.

Your claim about Einstein would seem to be rather an understatement. For Einstein, time is exhausted by the B-series. His perspective is eternalist, not presentist. In reality, time does not pass or flow, and past and future are just as real as the present. What you've got is just one big 4-D space-time block. Believe it or not, Einstein comforts the relatives of a physicist friend on the latter's demise by saying that the man is immortal in that he tenselessly exists, and always will, at a temporal location earlier than the present.

Death, where is thy sting?

I have the sense that it is this sort of conception that you can't wrap your head around. But I am not endorsing it! Can you dig it?

Do you understand McT's A-B distinction?

>>Believe it or not, Einstein comforts the relatives of a physicist friend on the latter's demise by saying that the man is immortal in that he tenselessly exists, and always will, at a temporal location earlier than the present.

Yet another example of physicists, who are certainly competent physicists, interfering in a subject (philosophy) they don't understand. I thought this was a peeve of yours?

We are talking about EINSTEIN. He was philosophically well-versed, E. Mach, et al. John Leslie, a philosopher, defends Einstein's type of view in Immortality Defended (Blackwell 2007).

Can you answer my questions above?

>>Back in the day we learned that 2 + 2 is 4. Was the teacher's use of 'is' present- tensed? No. Suppose she said, 'The number of blonde girls in this class is two.' Such a use of 'is' is present-tensed.

Suppose I say to my class, 'Hume is an empiricist.' Is that bad English? Should I have said that Hume WAS an empiricist? If it is good or acceptable English, is my use of 'is' tenseless?<<

Why is it thought that Einsteinian space-time supports eternalism?

What Einstein seems to exclude is a universal clock and, for each event, a universal simultaneity, with 'universal' meaning equally applicable to all inertial frames, aka, 'absolute'. Observers can disagree as to the rate of their clocks---they can assign different time coordinates to the one event---and they can disagree as to which events occur simultaneously with that one event. Nevertheless, two observers coinciding at an event will agree which events are in the past of that event and which events are in its future. They identify their pasts and futures regardless of their relative velocity.

Compare this with Newtonian space-time. The latter has a universal clock and a universal simultaneity. Its geometry differs somewhat from Einsteinian space-time. If presentism makes sense for Newton then why not for Einstein? Neither system has anything labelled 'the present' in it. Galileo could have drawn a space-time picture to illustrate the motion of balls running down his inclined plane. Again, it would not have had 'the present moment' in it. Why? Perhaps because the laws of physics in each of these systems are time-invariant.

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