Monday, November 5, 2007

Why is this time the present?

Alright! Back to blogging after a couple weeks of grading of papers...

Here's a problem for most forms of presentism - on most versions, there's no good answer to the question of why this time is the present one. That is, why does the stuff at this time (and in its current arrangement) exist rather than that of some other? Why isn't some other time the present one?

The presentist needs some answer here since intuitively there is indeed an explanation for why (at least a lot of) what exists now does exist and why it (mostly) is the way it is. It can't just be random which time is present and not just because it doesn't conform to how we think present things are explained. We simply don't have random times popping up as present and then another one as the next one - time simply doesn't work that way, even on a spooky tensed view like presentism.

Any plausible answer, if it is to explain why present stuff exists and exists the way it in fact does, must obviously be explanatorily prior to the existence of that stuff and its current arrangement. So on many versions of presentism, to follow William Lane Craig and say that the present time's presentness is explained by the past presentness of past times just won't cut it. This due to the fact that on many versions of presentism, such facts are themselves reducible to or grounded in things that are explanatorily posterior (or at least not prior) to the existence of present things and their current arrangement. Present dispositions, current evidence, or properties of things, hence, cannot do the job since they presuppose this time being the present rather than explaining it.

What about ersatzism a la Craig Bourne and others? This won't work either, for there is no reason for one ersatz time be realized as present rather than another. Having the realized time be the last ersatz time in a terminating series of ersatz time won't help matters either since it still leaves open the question of why this is the last ersatz time (and why the last one should be realized as opposed to some other in the first place).

How about, per Ross Cameron's suggestion, we let the entire world have a single distributional property which grounds all tensed facts and which gives the world its current state? No, that won't work either since this still leaves open why only one state - that is, this particular present one - which is governed by the distributional property should be the one to be realized as present rather than another (see more in my comments on Cameron's post linked at the top of this paragraph).

So most versions of presentism simply fail to explain why this time is the present one and, like I've said before, this is due to the simple problem that presentists in general get things backwards and try to explain the past by the present instead of the other way around.

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