Presentism, Continuous Time-Travel and the Phenomenology of Passage

Abstract

We argue that a certain variety of presentist time travel ends up significantly undermining the motivational foundations which lead some, but not all, presentists to their view. We suggest that if presentism is motivated by phenomenology, and part of that phenomenology is that it’s an experiential datum that we experience temporal passage, then the basis for believing presentism is less secure than we might have thought.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Wormholes might require closed time-like curves, which one might think are incompatible with presentism. According to Monton (2003), however, presentism is compatible with closed time-like curves. So long as presentism can account for causation between the present and the past/future, and so long as the presentist can accommodate the truth of claims about what was and what will be, the presentist can tell a similar story about closed time-like curves as the eternalist. One way to do this is to combine the nefarious presentism outlined by Tallant and Ingram (2015) with a counterfactual analysis of causation. Dowe (2009) cautions that loops in time may collapse the distinction between the past, present and future, but ultimately offers a way for the presentist to manage loops of this kind.

  2. 2.

    In both cases we require causation into the past. Since presentists are already tasked with accommodating causation between the past and the present, we will assume that there is no special difficulty with accommodating backwards-in-time causation.

  3. 3.

    Bourne (2006, pp. 15–16), Craig (2000, p. 138) and McKinnon (2003, pp. 306–307) motivate presentism in this fashion. For discussion see Callender (2008), Deng (2013a, b), Frischhut (2017), Miller (2017) and Skow (2011). Of course versions of presentism not so motivated, like Tallant’s (2012b), remain untouched by our concern.

  4. 4.

    Tallant (2012a, 2014) differentiates between two types of existence, but argues against the quantifier approach. The problem we are raising can be easily reformulated using Tallant’s definition of presentism.

  5. 5.

    The second perspective may require a closed time-like curve. If so, and there aren’t any if presentism is true, then this second perspective is unavailable to the presentist. If that’s right, then the problem we have outlined is even more pressing.

  6. 6.

    We are grateful to a referee for suggesting this option.

  7. 7.

    This variant of the objection was suggested to us by a helpful referee.

  8. 8.

    Of course on all versions of the story she remembers the global future, it’s just that on some the global future is the local past.

  9. 9.

    Some disjunctivists about perceptual phenomenology, for instance, say that veridical hallucinations seem different from real perception, but are nonetheless indistinguishable in report.

  10. 10.

    This paper emerged from a discussion between the authors after an interesting talk on related issues by Talia Sellars. Thanks also to a helpful audience at the 2018 International Association for the Philosophy of Time conference.

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Baron, S., Braddon-Mitchell, D. Presentism, Continuous Time-Travel and the Phenomenology of Passage. Erkenn (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-020-00217-4

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