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Sunday, January 21, 2024


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Good Morning, Bill. It's a couple of years since we last discussed this topic. This is what I would now like to propose. Let's return to our old friend Tom the tomato. It's Monday, and Tom is green. Tom's extant greenness, say, makes it true to say today, 'Tom is green'. If 'Tom is green' is true today then 'Tom was green' will be true tomorrow and subsequently, even if by then Tom is red or eaten. This is the p → FPp principle in action. Given that we live in a temporal world, it is telling us how to use the word 'was'. The connection between 'is' and 'was' is analytic. The truth of 'Tom was green' uttered tomorrow will not depend upon the state of the world tomorrow. Nor will it depend on the duration of the interval between today and tomorrow: 'Tom is green' licenses 'Tom was green' immediately.

I think the above makes sense within the understanding of tensed language shared between the presentist and his opponents. If tomorrow the presentist will be unable to supply an extant truthmaker for 'Tom was green', then so be it. He doesn't need one. The way an 'is' sentence turns into a 'was' sentence is part of our common understanding of time.

Hi, David. Thanks for the comment.

You say that 'Tom is green' is made true by something external to that sentence, namely, Tom's extant greenness. I agree. Generalizing, you seem to to be committed to saying that every contingent, present-tensed truth needs an extra-linguistic truth-maker. You also see to be committed to accepting a distinction between truth-bearers, such as declarative sentences, and truth-makers which are not sentential (or propositional) in nature. For example, 'Milo exists' is a sentence; but its truth-maker, the man Milo, is not a sentence. If you are OK with these commitments, we are in agreement.

But you don't think that past-tensed true sentences such as 'JFK was assassinated' which are true at present need truth-makers. That is: nothing non-sentential, nothing extra-linguistic, is needed now to make it true now that JFK was assassinated in late November, 1963. (The causal effects existing at present of JFK's having lived play no truth-making role.) I take it that for you what makes the JFK sentence true now is the wholly intra-linguistic, analytic connection between 'is' (present-tense) and 'was' (past-tense).

But if presentism is true, and the present alone exists, then the wholly past is nothing, and 'JFK was assassinated,' which is contingently true now, is not about anything -- which I find counterintuitive.

More later. At present I am bogged down with plumbing and other problems of a mundane sort. Would you say that 'Sir Thomas Crapper' now refers to nothing?

Morning, Bill.

I agree with your first para.

Ah yes, Thomas Crapper, eminent Victorian. A ceramicist with a wide popular following. Several royal warrants but never knighted, I fear. So I would not say that 'Thomas Crapper' now refers to nothing. The name refers to a man that once existed but now no longer does. Also, I'm inclined to avoid the attribution 'is nothing'. It strikes me as ambiguous between 'does not now exist' and 'is unreal', as in imaginary or fictional.

To clarify: the only requirements I am placing on the present for the sentence 'JFK was assassinated' to be true are (a) that JFK's assassination occurred before the present, and (b) according to contemporary English, the sentence correctly expresses the occurrence of JFK's assassination, particularly with regard to tense.

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