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The grounding problem and presentist explanations


Opponents of presentism have often argued that the presentist has difficulty in accounting for what makes (presently) true past-tensed propositions (TptP) true in a way that is compatible with her metaphysical view of time and reality. The problem is quite general and concerns not only strong truth-maker principles, but also the requirement that truth be grounded in reality. In order to meet the challenge, presentists have proposed many peculiar present aspects of the world as grounds for truths concerning the past, such as uninstantiated haecceities, Meinongian non-existents, ersatz times, and dispositional and distributional properties. The main problem with all such solutions is that any explanation of what grounds a TptP that involves the past is eo ipso a better explanation than any that involves only the present. Thus, the quest for an account of grounding for TptP that is compatible with the presentist ontology and ideology is doomed to be explanatorily deficient with respect to eternalism. In a recent article, Ben Caplan and David Sanson have claimed that presentists should change their strategy and, rather than seeking for exotic grounds for TptP, should adopt a more liberal view of explanation. That is, they should allow themselves to resort to “past directed” explanations, even if they do not accept the past in their ontology and ideology. I argue that such a proposal is not compatible with the tenet that there is a substantial distinction between the ideology of such a version of presentism and that of eternalism. Therefore, the presentist cannot endorse such “deflationist” explanations as an easy way out to the problem of the grounding of TptP.

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Correspondence to Giuliano Torrengo.

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Torrengo, G. The grounding problem and presentist explanations. Synthese 190, 2047–2063 (2013).

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  • Presentism
  • Truthmaker
  • Past
  • Tense
  • Grounding problem