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Monday, April 13, 2020

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Bill, it seems to me that your position does imply determinism assuming that the past and future are symmetrical. That is, do you contend that the future is as real as the past? If so, then events in the future must also be determine. But, the only way for events in the future to be determinate is for some form of determinism to be true. Example: Will Bill drink a glass of red wine on April 15, 2020? If presentism is false, the fact of Bill's drinking or not drinking of a glass of wine in two days is no less real than whether Bill drank a class of wine two days ago. Nothing we can do now can change the fact that Bill did or did not drink a glass of wine two days ago. If time is symmetrical, the same must be true of what will occur on April 15.

If you are right, we should be able to combine statements 2 3 and 4 to get the negation of 1, in which case the tetrad is aporetic.
I am struggling to do that. Let’s read (4) as
(4*) Some past real events have left no present evidence.
I think we can all agree with that. We have no evidence that Socrates was left handed, or not. But either he was left handed, or he was not. For the same reason we can accept
3) The past is determinate.
in your sense (and in Aristotle’s sense). For any past tense proposition p, either it was the case that p, or it wasn’t. (I assume that’s what you mean). Then you have
2) The past is real
which is nugatory, for we have already assumed the reality of past events in (4*) above. Or is your point that the past is real, not just that it was real? Let’s come to that. Taking all these together, do these imply the negation of
(1) whatever exists at all, exists at present. ?
But the word ‘exists’ does not appear in the first 3 premisses, so the argument lacks a middle term. Perhaps you interpret (1) as
(1*) The past isn’t real
But then (4*) and (3) are nugatory: (2) is the negation of (1*).

Can you rewrite the tetrad so that premisses 2-4 strictly imply the negation of (1)?

Bradley,

I didn't mention the future because we already have enough on our plates, and I am not inclined to think of past and future as symmetrical. The past is unalterable and wholly determinate. The past is a realm of reality as it cannot be if presentism is true. The future, however, is reasonably viewed as open and not wholly determinate. But I think you are right that if determinism is true, then the future is as determinate as the past.

Ostrich man,

Thanks for (this time) engaging what I said.

>>3) The past is determinate.
in your sense (and in Aristotle’s sense). For any past tense proposition p, either it was the case that p, or it wasn’t. (I assume that’s what you mean).<<

Not quite. For any past-tensed proposition p, either it IS the case that p, or it ISN'T.

For example, 'John Profumo had an affair with Christine Keeler' is past-tensed. But it is true now; it was not true in 1961.

When I say that the past is real, I mean that wholly past events, processes, individuals, etc. are tenselessly real. I can't possibly mean that the past is presently real. That would be a contradiction. And if I say that the past was real, then that is a tautology. I am saying that the past, although no longer present, is not nothing: it is tenselessly real or tenselessly existent. And I interpret the presentist as saying that the (wholly) past is tenseless unreal or tenselessy nonexistent.

Ostrich man,

1. The past is tenselessly real because it is wholly determinate.

2. If presentism is true, then the present alone is tenselessly real.

3. If the present alone is tenselessly real, and the past is tenselessly real, then the entire past must be contained in the present in the form of causal traces of past events.

4. But it is not the case that the entire past must be contained in the present in the form of causal traces of past events.

Therefore

5. Either it is not the case that the present alone is tenselessly real, or it is not the case that the past is tenselessly real. (3, 4, modus tollens)

6. It is the case that the past is tenselessly real.

Therefore

7. It is not the case that the present alone is tenselessly real. (5, 6, disjunctive syllogism)

Therefore

8. Presentism is false.

Consider the proposition that my grandfather Alfonso drank a glass of dago red on New Year's Day, 1940. Bivalence ensures that the proposition is either true or false but not both. If the proposition is true and the event occurred, it doesn't matter whether the event was caused by prior events under the aegis of the laws of nature, or not. To say that the past is determinate is not to say that past events are determined; it is to say that, e.g., the past individual Alfonso V. cannot be such that he neither drank nor did not drink red wine on the date in question. It had to be one or the other if bivalence holds for the past.

Of course, no one now remembers whether or not this event occurred, and there is no written record or other evidence of the event's having occurred. If the event occurred, nothing in the present points back to it as to its cause. Some past events, states, individuals, and property-instantiations leave causal traces in the present, but not all do. My grandfather's gravestone and the dessicated bones lying beneath it are causal traces in the present of a long-dead and wholly past individual. But there is nothing in the present that bears upon the truth of the proposition that Big Al drank a glass of vino rosso on New Year's Day, 1940, assuming it is true. If true, it is true now but lacks a present truth-maker.

Suppose that eternalism or growing block theory are right. Further suppose that God then annihilates the state of affairs* of Al's drinking red wine on New Year's Day, 1940. Would we still be able to make true statements about whether or not Alfonso drank dago red on that day? It appears so. So, a state of affair's tenseless existence doesn't appear to be necessary to our being able to make true statements about whether or not it happened.

I'm not sure I need God to actually be able to annihilate Al's drinking red wine to make the point, but supposing nothing much depends on Al's drinking red wine I don't see why he shouldn't be able to. It also appears to follow from God's ontological ultimacy and the doctrine of divine conservation that he can.

(I'm wary of depending too much on truthmaker maximalism. It faces formidable arguments—the empty or God only world arguments, a Liar-like paradox, etc.)

*Terminological note: I'm using state of affairs in Armstrong's sense.

Then I think we are back at the old impasse. I think your whole argument hinges on the assumption that ‘it is the case that p’, where p is a past-tense proposition, is true or false in virtue of some present reality.

If so, it is that assumption we must debate. We have debated it at least once before.

Here is one argument. We agree that ‘Harold lost the battle of Hastings in 1066’ was true in virtue of some past reality, namely Harold having lost the battle of Hastings in that year. Now we also say it is true. I.e. the proposition was true, and is true. But if it is true in virtue of some present reality, is that the same reality as the past reality? If something different, then could the present reality change in any way? Could it change tomorrow so that it is false that Harold lost the battle of Hastings in 1066? Surely not. ‘The past is necessary’ as the scholastics said. And it is necessary in virtue only of the past reality, in virtue of which it was and is true that Harold lost the battle of Hastings in 1066.

Thus the present tense ‘it is true that Harold lost the battle of Hastings in 1066’ expresses a past reality only. There is nothing in the present that corresponds to it, despite its illusory form as a present tense proposition.

By the same reasoning ‘is true’ is not a genuine predicate. If it were, then some present reality would have to correspond to the reality of the predicate applying to the subject. (The subject being the ‘it’ in ‘it is true’).

To be precise, what I am assuming is

A. Every singular affirmative contingent truth about temporal items has a truthmaker in the real order, and this holds for past-tensed truths as well as present-tensed truths.

Thus the past-tensed 'JFK was assassinated,' which is true, has a truthmaker, and cannot be true without it. I do not assume that this truthmaker exists at present, and in this case, the truthmaker cannot exist at present because neither JFK nor the event of his assassination exist at present.

Now if presentism is true, then whatever exists in time exists at present. So presentism and (A) cannot both be true.

I am having trouble following your argument.

>>We agree that ‘Harold lost the battle of Hastings in 1066’ was true in virtue of some past reality, namely Harold having lost the battle of Hastings in that year. Now we also say it is true. I.e. the proposition was true, and is true.<<

I don't agree. 'Harold lost the battle in 1066' is true. But it is not the case that 'Harold lost the battle in 1066' was true. For in 1066 what was true was that 'Harold loses the battle.' So it is not the case that 'Harold lost the battle of Hastings in 1066' both was and is true.

Your argument above:
A. Every singular affirmative contingent truth about temporal items has a truthmaker in the real order, and this holds for past-tensed truths as well as present-tensed truths.

B. Thus 'JFK was assassinated,' which is true, has a truthmaker, and cannot be true without it.

C. This truthmaker does not exist at present

D. If presentism is true, then whatever exists in time exists at present.

E. Therefore presentism and (A) cannot both be true.

How does this follow? You just conceded (in C) that the truthmaker does not exist any more. So how does having a (non existing) truthmaker conflict with (E)?

What does “has a truthmaker in the real order” mean?

I think the presentist could reasonably reject your premise (4), or at least the weight that you seem to be putting on it.

The fact that we are unaware of any evidence for some past event is not proof that there are no causal traces of it in the present, only that our ability to detect and understand them as such is limited.

Ostrich,

You are not following the argument. It follows from (C) and (D), taken together, that

1. 'JFK was assassinated' does not have a truthmaker.

(A), however, implies that 'JFK was assassinated' does have a truthmaker. Therefore

E. Presentism and (A) cannot both be true.

Ist das nicht sonnenklar?

What (C) states is that the Kennedy sentence does not have a truthmaker that exists now or at present. It can nonetheless have a truthmaker, one that tenselessly exists.

You don't seem to understand the grounding objection to presentism. The Kennedy sentence needs a truth-ground or a truthmaker. But there is nothing on presentism that could serve as the truth-ground. Therefore, presentism is false.

You could say that the Kennedy sentence is a brute truth. I would then argue against that. Or you could say that the sentence has a truthmaker in the present in the form of present causal traces of Kennedy. I would argue against that too -- as I already have.

"Truthmaker in the real order" means that a truthmaker cannot be a representation such as a proposition. If *Al is fat* is true, it follows that *Someone is fat.* But in truthmaker theory, the first proposition is not the truthmaker of the second. The truthmaker of both is or involves as a constituent concrete Al, all 260 lbs of him. Al is in the real order. Propositions about Al are in the intentional order. Don't some scholastics talk like this? Another example. You are a concrete, completely determinate, denizen of the real order. You reside 'outside' my mind. But 'in' my mind is a concept of you that cannot possibly do justice to your full glory. The concept is incomplete. In reality you either have high blood pressure or you don't. My concept of you is indeterminate with respect to your blood pressure. My concept of you is not in the real order.

Charlie Kester,

You make a good point. But consider this.

Suppose it is true that Rene Descartes scratched his nose on January 1, 1620. That action had various effects, e.g. tiny bits of his nasal epidermis fell into the hot wax he was using to seal a letter with. Various chemical reactions ensued. Surely none of this is preserved in the present.

Surely that is precisely one of the points at issue.

Do you have any posts arguing for your truthmaker premise (A)? Unless something has changed dramatically in the literature in the last two or three years, I'm pretty sure most presentists just reject it. (Truthmaker theorists typically reply by giving incredulous stares and reaffirming how intense their truthmaking intuitions are. But different people have different intuitions.)

Cyrus,

I have quite a few such posts. Here is one: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2015/01/will-the-real-truth-maker-of-al-is-fat-please-stand-up.html

Did you read the entries of mine from about a year ago critical of Feser's presentism?

>>You are not following the argument. It follows from (C) and (D), taken together [i.e. from C: The truthmaker of 'JFK was assassinated’ does not exist at present and D: If presentism is true, then whatever exists in time exists at present], that 'JFK was assassinated' does not have a truthmaker.


But I am following your argument, which is invalid as it stands. My point is, and was, that you are covertly assuming the premiss

(*) if p has a truthmaker, it has an existing truthmaker.

If (*) is false, then 'JFK was assassinated’ can have a truthmaker which exists no longer, perfectly consistent with the assumption that whatever exists in time exists at present.

Perhaps you assume that (*) is analytically true, but then you need to justify that assumption.

Or strictly, you require the premiss

(**) If a proposition has a truth-maker, it has a truth-maker which exists in time.

Ostrich,

Yes, I assume that

(*) if p has a truthmaker, it has an existing truthmaker.

Not every truth needs a truthmaker -- I am not what is called a 'truthmaker maximalist' like Armstrong -- but surely if a truth needs a truthmaker, and has one, then it must be an existing truthmaker. Truth is grounded in being. Veritas sequitur esse. This is not exactly foreign to your philosophical upbringing.

Take a gander at Aristotle, Categories 14b15-22. The Philosopher is saying something like this. If 'Milo exists' is true, then the 'cause' of that is Milo, and not the other way round. Existing Milo makes the sentence true, a sentence that therefore cannot be a brute truth. "It is because the actual thing exists or does not that the statement is called true or false."

Bill,

Ostrich's (**) is currently entailed by A and D in the argument, but that is only because D entails naturalism (in Grossmann's sense if not Armstrong's). Can you reformulate presentism into a thesis that accounts for theistic presentists? (D*. Everything that exists in time, exists at present?)

Bill,

In the linked article, you write:

That (some) truths refer us to the world as to that which makes them true is so obvious and commonsensical and indeed 'Australian' that one ought to hesitate to reject the idea because of the undeniable puzzles that it engenders. Motion is puzzling too but presumably not to be denied on the ground of its being puzzling.

But I question whether the scope of the “some” (that is, the scope of the obviousness and commonsensicality) extends to past tensed truths. I don't find it obvious that past tensed truths have truthmakers. Presumably presentists who reject it also don't find it obvious. (Some find it obvious that the past doesn't exist.) I guess what I'm asking is: Is there an objective way to measure obviousness? If there isn't, how much should we really be relying on it in our arguments?

Here are, as far as I can see, the two most relevant passages from the articles you mention for easy reference:

1. Will the Real Truthmaker of 'Al is Fat' Please Stand Up? The central and best among several arguments for facts is the Truth-Maker Argument. Take some such contingently true affirmative singular sentence as 'Al is fat.' Surely with respect to such sentences there is more to truth than the sentences that are true. There must be something external to a true sentence that grounds its being true, and this external something is not plausibly taken to be another sentence or the say-so of some person. 'Al is fat' is not just true; it is true because there is something in extralinguistic and extramental reality that 'makes' it true, something 'in virtue of which' it is true. There is this short man, Al, and the guy weighs 250 lbs. There is nothing linguistic or mental about the man or his weight. Here is the sound core, at once both ancient and perennial, of correspondence theories of truth. Our sample sentence is not just true; it is true because of the way the world outside the mind and outside the sentence is configured. The 'because' is not a causal 'because.' The question is not the empirical-causal one as to why Al is fat. He is fat because he eats too much. The question concerns the ontological ground of the truth of the sentential representation, 'Al is fat.' Since it is obvious that the sentence cannot just be true -- given that it is not true in virtue of its logical form or ex vi terminorum -- we must posit something external to the sentence that 'makes' it true. I don't see how this can be avoided even though I cheerfully admit that 'makes true' is not perfectly clear. That (some) truths refer us to the world as to that which makes them true is so obvious and commonsensical and indeed 'Australian' that one ought to hesitate to reject the idea because of the undeniable puzzles that it engenders. Motion is puzzling too but presumably not to be denied on the ground of its being puzzling.

2. A Critique of Edward Feser's Defense of Presentism, Part I. (3) is an exceedingly plausible principle, especially if restricted to contingently true affirmative singular propositions. Consider ' I am seated' assertively uttered by BV now as he sits in front of his computer. The sentence is (or expresses) a contingent truth.  Now would it be at all plausible to say that this sentence is just true?  Define a brute truth as a contingent truth that is just true, i.e., true, but not in virtue of anything external to the truth. The question is then: Is it plausible that 'I am seated' or the proposition it expresses be a brute truth?

I say that that is implausible in the extreme. There has to be something external  to the truth-bearer that plays a role in its being true and this something cannot be anyone's say-so. At a bare minimum, the subject term 'I' must refer to something extra-linguistic, and we know what that has to be: the 200 lb animal that wears my clothes.  So at a bare minimum, the sentence, to be true, must be about something, something that exists, and indeed exists extra-mentally and extra-linguistically.

Without bringing in truth-making facts or states of affairs, I have said enough to refute the notion that 'I am seated' could be a brute truth.  So far so good.

Now if 'I am seated' needs a truth-maker (in a very broad sense of the term), then presumably 'Kennedy was assassinated' does as well.  It can no more be  a brute truth than 'I am seated' could be a brute truth.

Fair enough. Here it is, see also here for other stuff that Aristotle said about truth.

πρᾶγμα φαίνεταί πως αἴτιον τοῦ εἶναι ἀληθῆ τὸν λόγον• τῷ γὰρ εἶναι τὸ πρᾶγμα ἢ μὴ ἀληθὴς ὁ λόγος ἢ ψευδὴς λέγεται

“res autem videtur quodammodo causa esse ut sermo verus sit; nam, quoniam est res vel non est, verus sermo vel falsus dicitur”

“The fact seems in some way to be responsible for the speech being true, for as the fact is/exists or is not, the speech is said to be true or false”. My translation (the Edghill is not good).

Well we have reached that happy point where we agree on which proposition we disagree on. I need to check what the scholastics thought about this passage, given that they were presentists to a woman. I shall be back.

Quoting from your Wikipedia entry:

Chapter 12, 14b15
"The fact of the being of a man carries with it the truth of the proposition that he is, and the implication is reciprocal: for if a man is, the proposition wherein we allege that he is true, and conversely, if the proposition wherein we allege that he is true, then he is. The true proposition, however, is in no way the cause of the being of the man, but the fact of the man's being does seem somehow to be the cause of the truth of the proposition, for the truth or falsity of the proposition depends on the fact of the man's being or not being".

If you understand that, then you understand the fundamental intuition that drives truthmaker theory. 'Milo exists' can't just be true; it cannot be a brute truth. Same with 'Milo is drunk.' That is self-evident to me. Not self-evident to me, but evident, is that the true 'Milo existed' is not a brute truth.

By the way, I noticed in your book ms. that you confuse truthmakers with truth conditions, but that is a separate topic.

I agree that we have pin-pointed one point of difference, namely, (*) above. That is progress, modest though it is.

The translation you quote is bad. 'Proposition' in the modern sense is incompatible with Aristotle's sense, and there are other problems. But that's a separate matter.

All philosophical discussion is resolved when the participants reach an assumption about which all further fruitful discussion is impossible.

Not a wikipedia entry! Logic Museum! I am offended.

Can you let me know the MS place re truth conditions please. I had this out in some detail with the editor, and I thought we had got it right.

No offense intended, but a mistake on my part. Will search your MS later, once I find it.

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