What is temporal ontology?
Temporal ontology is the part of ontology involving the rival positions of presentism, eternalism, and the growing block theory. While this much is clear, it’s surprisingly difficult to elucidate the substance of the disagreement between presentists and eternalists (to focus on the most widespread positions). Certain events happened that are not happening now; what is it to disagree about whether these events exist (simpliciter, or else tenselessly)? In spite of widespread suspicion concerning the status and methods of analytic metaphysics, skeptics’ doubts about this debate have not generally been heeded, neither by metaphysicians, nor by philosophers of physics. This paper revisits the question in the light of prominent elucidation attempts from both camps (by Ted Sider, Christian Wüthrich, and Tom Stoneham). The upshot is that skeptics were right to be puzzled. The paper then explores a possible re-interpretation of positions in temporal ontology that links it to normative views about how we should live as temporal beings.
KeywordsEternalism Presentism Time Ontology Grounding Ideology
Thanks to Jonathan Tallant, Giuliano Torrengo, David Ingram, Steven Savitt, Geurt Sengers, and audience members in Milan, Cambridge and Rotterdam for helpful comments on various drafts. This paper was written while I was a member of the TWCF project ‘Theology, philosophy of religion, and the sciences’.
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