Philosophical Studies

, Volume 167, Issue 2, pp 251–271 | Cite as

The open future, bivalence and assertion



It is highly now intuitive that the future is open and the past is closed now—whereas it is unsettled whether there will be a fourth world war, it is settled that there was a first. Recently, it has become increasingly popular to claim that the intuitive openness of the future implies that contingent statements about the future, such as ‘There will be a sea battle tomorrow,’ are non-bivalent (neither true nor false). In this paper, we argue that the non-bivalence of future contingents is at odds with our pre-theoretic intuitions about the openness of the future. These intuitions are revealed by our pragmatic judgments concerning the correctness and incorrectness of assertions of future contingents. We argue that the pragmatic data together with a plausible account of assertion shows that in many cases we take future contingents to be true (or to be false), though we take the future to be open in relevant respects. It follows that appeals to intuition to support the non-bivalence of future contingents are untenable. Intuition favours bivalence.


The open future Bivalence Norms of assertion Indeterminacy 



Earlier versions of this paper have been presented at The Open Future workshop in Barcelona in 2011; the 2011 Mind, World and Action conference in Dubrovnik; the Philosophy of Language and Mind conference in Stockholm in 2011; and at the Philosophy departments of Birkbeck College, Bristol, Glasgow, Nottingham and Oxford. Thanks to the audiences on these occasions, especially Mahrad Almotahari, Alexander Bird, Dorothy Edgington, Oystein Linnebø, and Dag Prawitz for very helpful discussions. Special thanks to Krister Bykvist, Cian Dorr, Ant Eagle, Max Kölbel, Ofra Magidor, Ian Rumfitt, Stephan Torre and anonymous referees, for useful comments on drafts of the paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy FacultyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.St Hilda’s CollegeOxfordUK
  3. 3.Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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