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Sunday, April 26, 2020


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To be clear, I am only trying to follow the logic. You claim

(A) X has ceased to be temporally present

is consistent with

(B) X has not ceased to exist

But you also claim that (A) implies

(C) It is false that X still exists

Does (C) then imply

(D) X no longer exists

? If so, you hold that “X has not ceased to exist” is consistent with “X no longer exists”.

And does (B) imply

(E) X continues to exist

? Then you hold that “X continues to exist” is consistent with “X no longer exists”.

Hello Bill, you say,

If you can grasp that, then it ought to be at least conceivable that when a thing is has no bearing on whether it is.
My suspicion is that 'when a thing is' is wrongly tensed. 'When a thing is' means just the present, now. So your claim is that what's conceivable is that the present has no bearing on whether a thing is. But this is false. Instead, allow a little time to elapse and talk about the present situation in the past tense:
It ought to be at least conceivable that when a thing was has no bearing on whether it was.
Not just conceivable but true. Likewise, a translation into the future renders
An item can become wholly past without prejudice to its existence.
An item can have become wholly past without prejudice to its having existed,
and the rationale for 'tense-free existence' evaporates.


You're trying to follow the logic, but you are not following it. You can't seem to think outside your presentist box.


You are not following it either.

Stay safe, gentlemen.

For myself, Bill, I'm not a presentist (though you seemed to assume I was the last time we corresponded on this). I have no commitment at all on this debate (although my intuition says the Growing Past is the least problematic solution) so please don't assume that I am unable to "think outside my presentist box".

I suspect that there is something of a communications failure here with your use of language. If I am right, you think there is an important difference between "still exists"/"exists now" on the one hand, and "exists" on the other hand, and your correspondents do not understand how you are using these terms.

To most people, "X exists" means the same as "X still exists", and not because of presentist sympathies but because of how they interpret the use of "still". You seem to think that "still" modifies "exists" in some way, somehow pulling an airy tenseless existence down into the sludge of tensed existence. I don't read it that way, and I think others do not either. To me, "X still exists" means something like "the predicate 'X exists' is true at the present time". "Still" does not modify "exists", it modifies the entire sentence, emphasizing the time at which it is true. Similar comments apply to similar phrases like "right now" or "at the present time".

You gave me a spatial analogy for why you use the language the way you do, but it came late in the thread so your other correspondents may not have read it. To them, you are violating the normal meaning of language without using your turn signals. Practically everyone who believes in God would say that "God still exists" is true. Most people would just be confused if you ask whether numbers exist, but once you get them to understand and agree to the proposition "numbers exist", I believe practically everyone would affirm that "numbers exist right now".

>>You're trying to follow the logic, but you are not following it
I am trying, yes. I am trying to understand what you through a series of questions.

(1) Does “it is false that X still exists” imply “X no longer exists” ?

(2) Does “X has not ceased to exist” imply “X continues to exist” ?

(3) Does “X has not become nothing” imply “X continues to be something” ?

What are the answers?

You are clearly trying to make an argument. But to make an argument you need to construct a series of claims that lead (validly) to a conclusion. You haven't done that yet.

Gudeman "To me, "X still exists" means something like "the predicate 'X exists' is true at the present time"".

I think it ("X still exists") means more than that. I think it means "X exists and X did exist", perhaps "X has not stopped existing". As opposed to "X exists, but never existed before now".

Gudeman: "I have no commitment at all on this debate"

I am not clear it is even a debate. For there to be a debate, there needs to be a definite proposition before us, whose truth or falsity we can give arguments for.

But I have no idea what that proposition is.

Bill claims in the post above that I suffer from "loss of problems". I don't think so. I think there is a problem, but it is a problem of trying to express what cannot be coherently expressed.

I suspect that there is something of a communications failure here with your use of language.

There is also a very early twentieth century English use of "don't understand" that is floating around the conversation, I suspect. Something to watch out for. . .

>>To most people, "X exists" means the same as "X still exists"<<

Then they don't understand the English language. Here are explications, in tensed language, of two common English locutions:

X no longer exists =df x existed but x does not exist.

X still exists =df x existed and x exists.

It should now be obvious that 'X exists' does not mean the same as 'X still exists.' The second entails the first, but the first does not entail the second.

To see this, imagine you have just finished building a book shelf. You say, 'It exists!' That is not to say that it still exists for it just now began to exist.

Agree? If not, there is no point in discussing this further.

I will agree for the sake of argument that X still exists =df x existed and x exists (despite reservations about the difference between an implication and a connotation), but with the caveat that the tense of "existed" does not restrict it from applying to timeless objects.

In standard English, believers in a timeless God will readily agree that God existed, God exists, and God will exist:

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
Revelations 1:8, NIV

Believers in timeless abstract objects who have not been exposed to the philosophy of time will ready agree that 3 existed, 3 exists, and 3 will exist.

I am making a grammatical point here, not a metaphysical point, and only for the sake of avoiding misunderstanding. If you want to use terms in a different way, I'm happy to adapt to your usage; I was only warning you and your readers of a potential misunderstanding.

Morning Bill. I can indeed conceive of a material thing becoming wholly past without it ceasing to exist. I just don't think this happens. I understand ceasing to exist as a process extended in time in which the matter of an object returns to the undifferentiated bulk from which the object first stood out. If a thing becomes wholly past without this process occurring then one moment the thing is present and the next it is not. Some mass just vanishes. And this violates the principle of the conservation of mass. We are in a position analogous with triangularity/trilaterality. There are geometrical reasons that these distinct concepts are always co-instantiated. Likewise physical reasons in the present case.

However, you appear to move from conceivability to possibility: 'An item can become wholly past without prejudice to its existence'. In the next sentence: 'Now obviously "existence" here refers to tense-free existence'. So perhaps you are urging that by leaving the present in this way a thing embarks on a new mode of existence in the past. But I don't think that can be right either because elsewhere you claim that Scollay Square is in that mode yet it surely underwent a cessation of existence process involving wrecking balls and bulldozers. So, yes, you are quite correct: I am not following your line of thought.

Hi David Brightly,

Your comment is very good.

Suppose I have a brass statue S. Think of it as a hylomorphic compound of substantial form + proximate matter (materia signata). I melt it down. The statue ceases to exist as we would normally say in tensed English. S has become wholly past. As an upholder of the reality of the past -- that's the going phrase, by the way, used by Anscombe, Dummett, et al. -- I want to deny that S has become nothing. So it is tenselessly something. (I appreciate that 'tenselessly' is none too clear.

On the other hand, we must all agree that S does not still exist as a hylomorphic compound after it has been destroyed by being melted down. Here the spatial analogy fails. I can remove S from our spatial presence without destroying it. But S cannot undergo existential (as opposed to alterational) change without being destroyed.

I want to reconcile these two:

1. Wholly past S is not nothing.

2. Wholly past S is not a full-fledged hylomorphic compound.

I want to say that S retains some sort of "shadowy existence" to borrow a phrase from Michael Dummett. But what the hell does that mean?

So, David, can you feel my pain? Do you accept both (1) and (2)? Or do you reject (1). I would guess that you reject (1).

I can't exactly feel your pain, Bill, but I'll admit to a certain 'falling through the floor' sensation when the implications of my train of thought dawned on me more fully.

Yes, I would have to give up your (1). I take it that 'is' here is present-tensed? Then perhaps you could say that S is a formless lump of brass and as such is not a fully-fledged hylomorphic compound. But then S has lost its S-ness.

I think I too want to uphold the reality of the past. But does this require that it exist tenselessly---surely that would put it outside time altogether---or that it survive into the present in some attenuated form? If today's 'today' and tomorrow's 'yesterday' are co-referential, and the things of today are real, then the things of tomorrow's yesterday will have been real too, even if some of them will have ceased to exist by tomorrow.

I have been reading Dummett's 'The Reality of the Past'. Hard pounding.

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