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Wednesday, May 06, 2020


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Thank you, Bill, that helps a very great deal, especially the remarks about dinosaurs, horses, etc.

When you say

JC exists tenselessly,
which I will write as
JC exists*,
I think you are speaking in a new language which I call English*. This language looks very much like English but all the verbs are untensed and written with a trailing asterisk. By 'untensed' I mean that there are no inflections or other constructions in or associated with the verb word that signify temporal position. I'm not an expert but I believe that the verbs in Mandarin are untensed in this sense. Where you say,
When a thing is has no bearing on whether it is,
which I find somewhat nebulous, I prefer to say that 'exists*' or 'blogs*' convey no information about when a thing exists or when a thing blogs. So if, as you say, existence* by its very nature is tenseless, I say also that blogging* by its very nature is tenseless and just as time-independent as existence*.

As described so far, English* has less logical power than English. For

Socrates is* bald, and
Socrates is* hairy,
are not contraries. To bring English* up to par we must add 'temporal qualifiers' of some sort. Maybe temporal stages to objects, or temporally qualified properties, or maybe adverbial qualifiers as in,
Presently, Socrates is* bald,
Pastly, Socrates is* hairy, etc.
This gives us a translation scheme between English and English*,
Xs exist no longer <---> Xs exist* ∧ wholly pastly, Xs are*,
Xs exist <---> Xs exist* ∧ presently, Xs are*,
Xs will exist <---> Xs exist* ∧ wholly futurely, Xs are*,
and existence* comes out as disjunctive omnitemporality.

What do I think this adds up to? First, because the properties of and relations between numbers are fixed an untensed language like English* unextended with 'adverbial temporal qualifiers' is adequate for discussing arithmetic. Second, what we can say in English using phrases like 'exists tenselessly' can be said in English* using 'exists*'. Third, tenseless existence seems to be of no more metaphysical significance than tenseless blogging.

Thanks for responding, David.

I don't believe that I am speaking in a new language since ordinary English has always had the resources for speaking tenselessly about the timeless. Would you agree that the 'are' in the following sentence is tenseless:

1. The natural numbers are closed under addition.

You find nebulous "When a thing is has no bearing on whether it is." Consider the spatial analogy: Where a thing is has no bearing on whether it is. Do you find that nebulous? I don't. A spatial thing cannot exist unless it is somewhere or other, but your being way over there relative to my here does not show that you exist any less robustly than I do.

This I accept:

Xs exist no longer <---> Xs exist* ∧ wholly pastly, Xs are*,
Xs exist <---> Xs exist* ∧ presently, Xs are*,
Xs will exist <---> Xs exist* ∧ wholly futurely, Xs are*,

If a presentist holds that only what exists exists*, how can you be a presentist.

There seems to be a substantive difference between holding that only what exists exists* and holding that some items exist* without existing. Which side are you on?

Hello Bill,

Yes, of course English can be used tenselessly. In contrast with Mandarin and English* which augment their untensed verbs with explicit signifiers to convey tense, English lacks a way of detensing its tensed verbs. Or rather, we can insert the adverb 'tenselessly' if we want but mostly don't bother. It's as if we recognise that abstract subject matter doesn't need tensed verbs. Indeed, it hardly needs verbs at all, witness the predicate calculus.

Regarding, 'When/where a thing is has no bearing on whether it is.' I find this almost as slippery as Quine's fish, lately resurfaced, to which there are affinities. What is meant by 'has no bearing'? You can't be denying the inference from 'JC is in Rome' to 'JC exists'? And I'm confident that JC's existence in the first century BC was just as robust then as mine is now.

I hold that 'X exists' entails 'X exists*' but not conversely.

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