Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tenseless Eternalism: Myths and Misconceptions

So, I've been reading a lot lately - in philosophy of time, mind, and language respectively (mostly for my dissertation) - and this has included quite a few books and articles by folks who reject eternalism, the tenseless theory of time, or both. Unfortunately, I've found that for a lot of these authors, their rejection of tenseless eternalism is based on one or more fundamental misconceptions about what the theory says or what its practitioners believe. Frankly, it's a bit frustrating to see such things over and over again. Not all the tensed theorists I've read fall into this camp - some seem to understand tenseless theory perfectly well - but the number who do fall into this group was somewhat overwhelming (of course, tenseless theorists do not always understand the nuances of opposing positions either). Even more unfortunate is the extent to which many people who have held to tenseless eternalism have themselves misunderstood the position and/or held to complimentary but unnecessary positions which might be mistaken for necessary corollaries for holding to such a theory. So it's no wonder that many tensed theorists have such misconceptions about tenseless eternalism given the statements and positions of many of the people who have historically held such a position.

Here are some of the myths or misconceptions about tenseless eternalism that I have in mind (not precisely in any particular order):

Time is static and unchanging.
There is no change or dynamism.
There is no passing away, ceasing to exist, coming to be, becoming, coming to pass, happening, flow, or presence.
All is at once.
All coexists.
All facts are fixed from or at the beginning of time.
All events or facts are eternal or endure through time.
Every time, including the future, is already there.
Temporal experience is illusory.
There is no past, present, or future.
Time is pretty much exactly like space (except maybe for those differences we find in physics).
Everything has temporal parts.
Tensed representation or thought is degenerate, not needed, or otherwise 'bad'.
The river of time metaphor is a fraud.
Causal determinism holds.

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