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Presentism, truthmakers and distributional properties

Abstract

Presentists face a challenge from truthmaker theory: if you hold that the only existing objects are presently existing objects and, moreover, you agree that truth supervenes on being, then you will be hard pressed to identify some existent on which a given true but traceless claim about the past supervenes. Cameron (Philos Books 49:292–301, 2008, Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, In: D Zimmerman (ed), 2011) aims to meet this challenge by appeal to distributional properties. So, to give a simple example, the truth that you were once a child supervenes on you presently instantiating the property of being initially a child and then an adult, a property distributed over time. I argue that a presentist ought to deny that distributional properties can serve as truthmakers.

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Notes

  1. For the characterization of presentism in terms of the existence of times, see for example Armstrong (2004, p. 145) and Bourne (2006, p. 13). For the characterization in terms of presently existing objects, see for example Merricks (1995, p. 523), Mellor (1998, p. 20) and Sider (2001, p. 11). presentism is vacuously true if the copula in the slogan is present tensed: everything that presently exists is present. For the slogan to state a substantive thesis, we must take the copula to refer to existence simpliciter. For discussion of triviality in the formulation of presentism, see Lombard (1999), Crisp (2004) and Meyer (2005, 2012).

  2. And recently some have offered alternative ways to handle negative existential truths: see, for example, Schaffer (2008, 2010).

  3. For the most part, I shall restrict discussion to the presentist view that the past does not exist. This simplification serves my purposes, avoids irrelevant complications concerning the future, and distinguishes presentism from growing block theorists such as Tooley (1997).

  4. Caplan and Sanson (2010) argue that such abstracta do not ground past truths and so this version of ersatzism fails a truthmaker requirement stronger than truthmaker.

  5. For discussion of the contingently nonconcrete, see Bennett (2006) and Nelson and Zalta (2009).

  6. For an alternative approach to the epistemology of contingent metaphysical truths, see Miller (2010).

  7. For criticism of this construal of metaphysical necessity, see Williams (2006).

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to Paul Audi, Andrew Bailey, Michael Barnard, Troy Cross, Foad Dizadji-Bahmani, Michael Flood, Alice Kelly, Bernie Linsky, Ioan Muntean, Howard Nye, Joshua Peachment, Tim Put, Jason Raibley, Alex Stiles, Allison Thorton, Chris Tweedt and the audience at a paper delivered at the APA Central, February 2013.

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Corkum, P. Presentism, truthmakers and distributional properties. Synthese 191, 3427–3446 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-014-0456-8

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Keywords

  • Time
  • Presentism
  • Truthmakers
  • Distributional properties