A Future for Presentism

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Presentism, the view that only the present exists, was a much neglected position in the philosophy of time for a number of years. Recently, however, it has been enjoying a renaissance among philosophers. A Future for Presentism is meant as a timely contribution to this fast growing and exciting debate.

After discussing rival positions in the philosophy of time, in Part I Craig Bourne shows how presentism is the only viable alternative to the tenseless theory of time. He then develops a distinctive version of presentism that avoids the mistakes of the past, and which sets up the framework for solving problems traditionally associated with the position, such as what makes past-tensed statements true, how to give the proper semantics for statements about the future, how to deal with transtemporal relations, how we can meaningfully talk about past individuals, and how causation can be accommodated. Part I concludes with a discussion of the direction of time and causation, the decision-theoretic problem known as 'Newcomb's problem', and the possibility of time travel and causal loops. In Part II Bourne focuses on the problems for presentism raised by relativity theory. He begins by giving a self-contained exposition of the concepts of special relativity that are important for understanding the later discussion of its philosophical implications. The last two chapters explores the philosophical implications of certain cosmological models that arise from general relativity, namely the expanding models, which seem to represent our universe, and Gödel's infamous model, which allows us to take a journey into our future and arrive in our past. The necessary physics is explained withthe aid of diagrams, throughout.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A Future for Presentism is a useful contribution to the flourishing presentism industry."—Yuri Balashov, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199568215
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/17/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Carig Bourne is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements xi

Introduction 1

I What is a theory of time? 1

II Initial Plausible options for a theory of time 3

III What conditions must any adequate philosophical theory of time satisfy? 14

Part I The Presentist Manifesto 19

1 When am I? 21

I The Present Problem 21

II Tensed theories toppled 24

III Tensed truth-conditions: token-reflexive or non-token-reflexive, that's not the question 33

2 A theory of presentism 39

I The parameters of the problem 39

II A radical response 40

III Priorian presentism 41

IV Reductive presentism 47

V Ersatzer presentism 52

VI Branching time for presentists 61

VII The advantages of ersatzer presentism 65

3 Some outstanding problems for presentism met 70

Problem 1 McTaggart's argument 70

I McTaggart's position 71

II McTaggart's argument 73

III How ersatzer presentism avoids McTaggart's argument 76

Problem 2 A deontic, semantic, and paradoxical need for other times 78

I The deontic need 78

II The semantic need 79

III The paradoxical need 80

Problem 3 Future contingents, non-contradiction, and the law of excluded middle muddle 82

Problem 4 Transtemporal relations (I) 95

I Earlier than and defining tenses 96

II Determinables 98

III Qualitative relations 98

Problem 5 Transtemporal relations (II): reference 99

I Prior, proper names, and presentism 99

II Rigidity for Russellians 102

III Who wants to be a Millianaire? 103

IV Passing the nominal parcel 104

4 Transtemporal relations (III): causation 109

I Formulating theories of causation within presentism 110

II The direction of time and causation: the counterfactual connotation of causation 115

III Thedirection of time and causation: the means-end connotation of causation 121

IV Mellor's argument against causal loops 131

V Presentism and backwards causation 134

Part II Presentism and Relativity 137

5 Physics for philosophers 141

I Basic notions 141

II Essentials of special relativity 146

III Minkowski space-time diagrams 151

IV Minkowski's philosophical conclusions 157

6 The present dialectic in special relativity 160

I Putnam's thesis 160

II Stein's antithesis 162

III Questioning the grounds for adopting Einstein's definition of simultaneity 172

IV Understanding and defining absolute simultaneity 173

V The interpretation of the Lorentz transformations 176

VI The 'conspiracy of silence' objection 179

VII Simplicity and surplus content 182

VIII The Present Problem revisited 184

IX Conclusion 185

7 Becoming inflated 187

I The Mellor-Rees argument against tense theories 187

II Can expansion combat such wrinkles? 191

III Event and creation horizons 197

IV Bursting the balloon 198

8 All the time in the worlds: Gödel's modal moral 204

I Gödel's philosophical position on the nature of time 205

II Establishing part I of Gödel's argument 206

III Part 2 of Gödel's argument 212

IV Using TNT as ammunition against Gödel's conclusion 213

V Tenseless time: one way to dispose of TNT safely 214

VI The essential properties of time 216

VII Another way to dispose of TNT-although taking great care to do it safely 217

Bibliography 225

Index 239

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