Skow, Objective Becoming and the Moving Spotlight

Skow, Objective Becoming and the Moving Spotlight Abstract Skow argues that the best metaphysic of objective becoming is the moving spotlight theory. I agree, but I think the best version of the moving spotlight theory is not amongst the theories Skow describes. I look at Skow's moving spotlight theories that invoke an extra dimension of supertime, or new primitive supertense operators, or that make presentness a fundamentally relational phenomenon, and I raise some problems for these views. I argue that the moving spotlighter should take presentness to be an absolute phenomenon that changes in time. This has consequences for what it means to say the past is real. In a surprising plot twist, Bradford Skow’s incredibly interesting book Objective Becoming is a defence of the claim that there is no objective becoming. Skow argues for the block universe view (aka the B-Theory): the view that the past, present and future are equally real, no time is metaphysically privileged, and change is simply a matter of things being one way at one point along the temporal dimension and another way at another such point. However, much of Skow’s book is spent developing what he considers to be the best rival view, and so Skow – while not believing in objective becoming himself – engages in an extensive discussion of just what it would take for there to be objective becoming. Moving Spotlight theorists like myself will find somewhat of an ally in Skow, as he argues that the best metaphysics that admit objective becoming are not presentist metaphysics on which reality encompasses only that which is present, but rather moving spotlight metaphysics on which reality encompasses the past, present and future, the present time is objectively special, and there is objective passage from the past to future. Here is the plan for this article. Skow considers various versions of the Moving Spotlight: I will explain the details of the views he takes seriously. As we will see, he thinks there are two options for capturing the idea that what time is present changes. The first is to invoke supertime, which lets us describe a change to the timeline as a whole. This, I argue, leads to views that are either outright inconsistent, or that are unnecessarily complicated. The second option is to make presentness a fundamentally relational phenomenon. This, I argue, results in views on which there is not really any passage. I will end by proposing a different way of thinking about the Moving Spotlight that I think better captures the idea of passage, and diagnosing why Skow did not see it as one of the options. According to the B-Theory, temporal reality consists simply in one thing after another. There is no privileged temporal point, and while there might be variation in how things are from one temporal point to another, temporal reality itself – how the world is across time – does not change.1 The moving spotlight theory takes this picture and picks out one temporal point as metaphysically special: the present.2 However, this can’t give us the entirety of the moving spotlight theory, as which temporal point is present is meant to change: the present moves along the timeline, from earlier points to later ones, as time passes. What, in the moving spotlighter’s picture of reality, ensures that the present used to be at another time and will be at yet another one? The B-Theorist treats change as variation across the timeline. But on the moving spotlight picture we just described, there is no variation across the timeline regarding what time is present: look backwards along the timeline and you might find dinosaurs, look forwards and you might find galactic empires, but no matter where you look the present just is where it is – that one, privileged spot. One thought, then, is that change in what time is present must consist in variation across some further dimension: supertime. This gives us the view Skow calls MST-Supertime:3 different times are present at different points of supertime. While presentness is only found at one time on the timeline (after all, look back at each time before the present: none of them is alight with presentness), it super-was the case that another time is present. Skow dismisses MST-Supertime as crazy.4 I will add that I don’t think that MST-Supertime is consistent: it is susceptible to a version of McTaggart’s paradox. If supertime really is an extra dimension of reality, then presumably the ways things are at the various points of supertime are each a part of the way reality as a whole is, simpliciter. (Just as, for the B-Theorist, what’s going on at each time contributes to the complete way reality is.) But those various states are incompatible, since they involve different times being present. The MST-Supertimer doesn’t avoid the problem simply by saying that different times are present at different supertimes, any more than you avoid the problem of temporary intrinsics simply by saying that objects are different at different times. The question is, what is ‘at t’ doing that solves the problem? If it is to signal a fundamental relativity then the problem is indeed solved: if times are never present, simpliciter, but only relative to a point of supertime, then there is no incompatibility in the way things are at one point of supertime and another. But despite Skow’s sometimes talking this way, I don’t think this is how we should understand MST-Supertime: after all, this kind of relativity is introduced explicitly when we get to MST-Time (below), and it is clearly supposed to be a departure from what we’ve had before.5 Rather, I think ‘at t’ is meant to behave on MST-Supertime similarly to how it does on the B-Theory: as a device to restrict your attention to certain goings on. But the complete account of reality should face no restrictions and include the goings on at all points of time, supertime, or whatever dimensions there are. And so MST-Supertime faces McTaggart’s paradox, since the goings on from one point of supertime to another are not compatible: they involve different times being (absolutely) present.6 Thankfully, we know how to get rid of dimensions while still doing the work they were designed to do. The presentist doesn’t believe in a dimension of time, but of course she doesn’t deny that things used to be or will be different. Instead of complicating her ontology by believing in an extra dimension, the presentist complicates her ideology by admitting primitive tense operators, that allow her to make claims about what was or will be the case without committing to a dimension along which those things are the case at some point.7 Let us follow her lead, then. While we will accept the temporal dimension, we will not accept supertime, but instead will enrich our ideology with primitive supertense operators that do for supertime what primitive tense operators do for time: allow us to make claims about what super-was or super-will be the case without believing in a dimension along which those things are the case at some point. This gives us what Skow calls MST-Supertense.8 (MST-Supertense avoids McTaggart’s paradox in analogous ways to the presentist: by denying the reality of ways the world merely super-was and super-will be. Just as the presentist holds that there were dinosaurs, but that no states of affairs involving dinosaurs contribute to the complete account of how reality is, so does the MST-Supertenser hold that a different time super-was present, but that no state of affairs involving another time’s being present contributes to the complete account of how reality is.) According to MST-Supertense, there are two kinds of change. There is what the B-Theory allows: variation across the temporal dimension. And then there is something expressible using the supertense operators: facts about how the temporal dimension as a whole super-was and super-will be. So for example, we can say that this is how reality super-is9 at time t5: There are times, t1−t10, such that each tn is after tn−1. Time t5 is objectively present. There are dinosaurs at times t1 and t2. There are lunar colonies at times t9 and t10. Humans exist but are confined to Earth at t5. Given this account of how reality super-is, there are dinosaurs at times before the time that super-is present, and lunar colonies at times after the time that super-is present, but there are no times at which a time other than t5 is present. However, what we can say is that it super-was the case that another time is present. The following is perfectly compatible with our account of what reality super-is like at t5: It super-was the case at time t4 that: There are times, t1−t10, such that each tn is after tn−1. Time t4 is objectively present. There are dinosaurs at times t1 and t2. There are lunar colonies at times t9 and t10. Humans exist but are confined to Earth at t5. Indeed, the following is also compatible with our description of how reality super-is at t5: It super-was the case at time t4 that: There are times, t1−t10, such that each tn is after tn−1. Time t4 is objectively present. There are dinosaurs at times t1 through t10. At time t5, the dinosaurs colonize the solar system; by time t10 they have colonized the galaxy. There is no time at which there are any humans. This second super-change describes a radical change to temporal reality: not only does the present move, but the entire contents of the timeline change as it moves. It super-was the case at t4 that history was one lacking in humans, where dinosaurs always exist and colonize the galaxy, but it super-is the case at t5 that dinosaurs went extinct and humans came into being and later colonize the moon. This kind of radical change to history as a whole is coherent on MST-Supertense, but Skow stipulates that the believer of that theory takes such changes to be metaphysically impossible: the only possible super-changes are changes concerning what time is present.10 Given that there are these two kinds of change – variation across the temporal dimension, and changes in what the temporal dimension itself is like – we need to know how tensed language in English works. Skow considers various options, and narrows them down to two. I’ll just focus on one; the differences aren’t important for my purposes. An ordinary English tensed claim like ‘A will be F’ super-is true at time t just in case it super-will be the case that A super-is F at a time later than t.11 That is: claims I make when t super-is present about what will be the case are sensitive not only to what is going on at times later than t, or to what super-will be the case, but rather to what super-will be going on at times later than t. To get a grip on how this plays out, consider our description above of how reality super-is at time t5, and suppose someone at t5 says ‘It was the case that dinosaurs went extinct’. If our first super-change scenario accurately represents what super-was the case at time t4 then this utterance is true at t5, because what super-was the case is that the extinction of dinosaurs occurs at a time that is before time t5. However, if our second super-change scenario accurately represents what super-was the case at time t412 then the utterance of ‘It was the case that dinosaurs went extinct’ at t5 is false, even though there super-is (at the time of utterance) an extinction event at an earlier time. That is because it is not true that there super-was an extinction event at an earlier time. So the earlier and later goings on are irrelevant to the truth or falsity of tensed claims, unless they super-were and super-will remain earlier and later goings on. That is perhaps an odd result, but remember of course that Skow has stipulated that the radical super-changes are metaphysically impossible on this metaphysic, and so happily we will never in fact end up in the scenario of saying that it super-is true that Caesar is crossing the Rubicon at an earlier time but that it wasn’t true that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Skow’s stipulated modal claim does a lot of work for the believer in MST-Supertense, then: we might ask what justification they have to believe it, given that some super-changes occur, and that the radical super-changes are just as coherent. MST-Supertense dispenses with supertime as an extra dimension, but it yields a disappointingly complicated account of change. Some, the B-Theorists, think that change is a matter of what is happening from one time to another. Some, Priorian presentists, think that change can only be captured by primitive tense operators. MST-Supertensers think that change is a matter both of what is happening across time and what we can express using primitive tense-like operators. We might wonder why we need this complicated machinery of supertime or supertense operators. Isn’t the basic idea behind the moving spotlight simply that what time is present changes? In which case, shouldn’t we just be appealing to time? Skow considers an option that dispenses with both supertime and supertense operators in favour of mere time: MST-Time. He says that on such a view each time is simply present relative (only) to itself.13 According to MST-Time there is such a thing as objective presentness (contra the B-Theory), but it is a fundamentally relational phenomenon: no time is present simpliciter, merely relative to itself. Skow says that MST-Time is similar to Fine’s Relativism;14 indeed, he’s not sure if they’re the same view.15 I think they’re not the same. The B-Theory and standard A-Theories share a common assumption: that there is a single correct description of what reality is like. The B-Theorist says that the single correct description of what reality is like is a tenseless one, describing how reality varies across time. Standard A-Theories say that the single correct description of what reality is like is one that tells you what is happening now, and what happened and will happen. Finean Relativism rejects this assumption: on Fine’s view, there is simply the description of what’s happening at time t1, the description of what’s happening at time t2, etc. And the first of these descriptions is true relative to t1, the second is true relative to t2, etc., and that is all one can say about reality. There is no way reality is absolutely, or simpliciter. Reality, on Finean Relativism, is fundamentally perspectival: the truth about how things are depends on one’s perspective on reality. But despite Skow’s talk of truth from a perspective, I don’t think this is what’s going on with MST-Time. There is a single, complete correct account of what reality is like, according to MST-Time. It goes like this: t1 is present from the perspective of t1, t2 from the perspective of t2, etc.16 This might sound like just a different way of saying the same thing as Fine, but I think there is a genuine difference here. On MST-Time, being present is an irreducibly relational phenomenon: nothing is present simpliciter, only relative to a time. The relationality is built into the phenomenon of presentness; but once we have all these facts concerning what is present relative to what, we can say that reality consists of all these relational facts together. For Fine, by contrast, the relativity is of a more radical sort. On Fine’s view, presentness is not relational. There is the fact that P is present, simpliciter. But whether reality is constituted by this fact is relative to a time. For Skow, the facts about presentness involve an irreducibly relational phenomenon – there is no being present, only being present at a time – but for each of these relational facts we can ask whether they constitute reality, simpliciter, and expect an answer. For Fine, the facts about presentness do not involve anything relational – there is just the fact of t1’s being present, of t2’s being present, etc. – but it makes no sense to ask whether any given fact constitutes reality, simpliciter, only whether it constitutes reality relative to a particular time.17 But both views share something that I think is unattractive: they abandon the thought – crucial, I think, to what motivates realism about passage in the first place – that there is something uniquely special about the present. What’s the important difference between saying that every time is special from its own perspective and saying that no time is special? I also don’t think that there is genuine passage on these views. If there is an absolute present that moves from one time to another, that sounds like passage; but if each time is simply present relative to itself,18 what passes? Why, when abandoning supertime and supertense in favour of mere time, did Skow move immediately to treating presentness as a relational, rather than absolute, phenomenon? He actually does consider a ‘time only’ view that has non-relational presentness – MST-Time with Absolute Presentness – but it is relegated to a half-page appendix,19 so Skow obviously doesn’t think it is worth much attention. This view just takes the perspectival metaphysic of MST-Time and adds to it that one time is absolutely present independent of perspective. The idea is that while each time is present relative to itself, and so ‘t1 is present’ is true relative to t1 but not true relative to t2, etc., there is also a unique time, P, that is absolutely present, and so ‘P is present’ is true, simpliciter, and its truth is not sensitive to a perspective on reality the way other truths are. I agree with Skow that this view is not worth much attention. This is a view on which there is an absolute present, but it doesn’t change: every time is present from the perspective of itself, and there is one unique time P such that P is absolutely present from the perspective of every time. In the first sense of presentness, every time has equal claim to objective presentness, whereas in the second sense of presentness, it does not change what time is objectively present. In no sense do we capture the thought that there is a unique, but changing, objective present. But why not say simply that there is a unique absolute present, but that a different time used to be the unique absolutely present time and that yet another time will be? This seems to me like the natural thing for the moving spotlighter to say, so why is it not a part of any of Skow’s options? In what remains, I want to attempt to bring out what I think is a background assumption of Skow’s that is causing him not to see this as an option; it is an assumption I think the moving spotlighter should reject. I think the reason Skow is not seeing this option is that he’s assuming that there has to be something right about the past and future perspectives. That at the very least, the past must be present from the perspective of the past, and that the future must be present from the perspective of the future. But it seems to me that the most natural thing for the A-Theorist to say is that past and future perspectives on reality are simply false perspectives: not merely false from the present perspective, just false. That – contra the multiple perspectives of MST-Time – there is simply one correct perspective on reality: namely, the present perspective on reality. There is a unique objectively present time, P, and it is because of this that the perspective on reality from P is the unique correct perspective on what reality is like. There may be a trivial sense in which every time is present from its own perspective, but this doesn’t tell us any more about what reality is really like than the claim that a fictional world is real from its own perspective. To take the A-Theory seriously, I claim, is to hold that the past and future perspectives on the world are simply incorrect: they misrepresent reality. And this is not to say that they misrepresent what reality is like now. It is to say that they misrepresent what reality is like. Simpliciter. Past perspectives on reality did correctly represent reality, and future perspectives on reality will do so, but the only correct perspective on reality, simpliciter, is the present one. That the only correct perspective on reality is the present one sounds like a distinctively presentist thought. Is it really something a non-presentist A-Theorist like the moving spotlighter can say? Yes. They can say it, and should. They can say it precisely because the non-presentist is not obliged to agree with the B-Theorist that the fundamental description of what reality is like is an atemporal one. According to the B-Theory, the fundamental description of reality is a description of how things are across time: this occurs, then that, then and so on. The presentist, of course, thinks that the fundamental description of reality is simply a description of what reality is like now. It is tempting to think that any version of non-presentism must agree that the fundamental description of reality is an atemporal one. After all, if the past and/or future are real, then the fundamental description of reality must surely include a description of that past and future reality, since the fundamental description of reality must describe all that is real. But this is a mistake. There is an ambiguity in ‘the past and future are real’. It could mean that there are past and future things – that is, that the complete ontological account of reality includes things that exist in the past and future, as well as in the present. Or it could mean that the way things were and will be is as much a part of the way reality is, simpliciter, as the way things presently are. It is the latter claim that requires the fundamental description of reality to be an atemporal one. If the ways things were and/or will be are amongst the ways reality is, then a complete description of reality had better involve reality being those ways, and thus the complete description of reality cannot simply be a description of how reality is now. But no A-Theorist should accept that the past and future are real in this sense. If the A-Theory is true, it simply cannot be the case that all the ways reality was and will be are ways reality is, for that way lies a vicious version of McTaggart’s paradox.20 1066 was present, so the presentness of 1066 is a way reality was, so if every way reality was is a way reality is then the presentness of 1066 is a way reality is. But 1066 is now past, and was future, so those would also have to be ways reality is. And so we end up with McTaggart’s result that each time is past, present and future, which is absurd. The B-Theorist can coherently say that the ways reality was and will be are as much a part of the way reality is, simpliciter, as the way reality is now, precisely because according to the B-Theory there is no contradiction between what was the case, what is now the case, and what will be the case, and that’s because what was once truly said with an utterance of the sentence ‘1066 is present’ – namely, that 1066 is the time of that utterance – is perfectly compatible with what is now truly said by an utterance of the sentence ‘1066 is past’ – namely, that 1066 is before the time of this second utterance. Skow’s MST-Timer can hold that how reality is, simpliciter, includes how it was and will be, as well as how it is now, for the same reason: the way things were and will be, on this view, are not incompatible with the way things are now. This is because, on MST-Time, the facts about what is present are each relative to a time, and it is perfectly compatible for 1066 to be present relative to 1066 but not to 2017 and for 2017 to be present relative to 2017 but not to 1066. But for the A-Theorist who believes in a changing absolute present, the ways things were and will be are simply not compatible with the way things are now. There is at least one respect in which how things were – that 1066 is objectively present – is simply not compatible with how things are now, since 1066 is not now objectively present. Thus – at least if the complete fundamental account of reality is consistent21 – the A-Theorist simply cannot admit that the complete account of reality includes the ways things were and will be in addition to the ways things are now. This is, I think, how we end up with Skow’s options. If you assume that the way reality ultimately is must consist of the ways it was and will be as well as the ways it is now, then there is simply no coherent way to have an absolute objective present that changes in time. Our choices are to give up on the absoluteness – this gives us Fine’s relativism or Skow’s MST-Time, depending on where we locate the relativity – or to take there to be such a thing as absolute objective presentness, but that it is stuck in time: that some time, P, is absolutely objectively present, and that this is not a fact that changes in time. All we can say is that absolute objective presentness moves in supertime, if we are willing to add primitive supertense operators to our ideology. Skow is explicit that he sees these as the only options: he says there are two strategies for eliminating supertime (as an actual extra dimension) from a theory: ‘We can eliminate supertime in favor of primitive supertense operators, or eliminate supertime in favor of time and talk of what is true ‘from the perspective of’ each time’ (180; see also 68) But, I argue, we are only limited to these options if we believe that reality consists of the ways it was and will be, as well as the way it is now. I think the A-Theorist should abandon the claim that the past and future are real in this sense. But this does not mean that the A-Theorist has to be a presentist, for they can think that the past and future are real in the other sense: that there exist past and future entities like Caesar and the first lunar colony. Admitting the existence of such non-present entities is compatible with saying that the only way reality is, simpliciter, is the way it is now; we simply have to say that Caesar – that thing that is entirely located in the past – is not the way he was when he was present, but rather the only way Caesar is, simpliciter, is the way he now is.22 This version of a non-presentist A-Theory departs from presentism in admitting past and future entities, but agrees with presentism that the only way any thing is, simpliciter, is the way it is now. And thus, the present perspective on reality is privileged – it is the only perspective on reality that gets things right – although we can (contra presentism) describe from the present perspective what mere past and mere future entities are now like. That is the kind of view I think we need to accept if we want to believe in an absolute objective present that changes, without resorting to supertense operators.23 The downside of such a view is that we have to give up on something that might have seemed like a benefit of non-presentist views over presentist ones: namely, that the admission of non-present ontology allows us to give tenseless truth-conditions for at least ordinary tensed claims. The B-Theorist tells us that the truth-conditions of ‘It was/will be the case that p’ are that there is a past/future time at which p is true. So ‘Caesar crossed the Rubicon’ is true because there is a past time at which Caesar is crossing the Rubicon. The presentist, of course, in eschewing past and future reality cannot tell the same story, and simply has to take ‘It was the case that …’ as a primitive bit of ideology that lets us describe past goings on. This seems like an advantage the B-Theorist has over the presentist, exactly analogous to the advantage Lewis claims his modal realism has over the actualist: it offers a reduction of ideology, paid for in the coin of ontology.24 One might have thought this advantage is available to all eternalists – indeed, that this is the primary reason to accept eternalism. However, on the kind of view I am offering, this advantage is not secured. The truth-conditions of ‘Caesar crossed the Rubicon’ can’t be, on this view, that there is a past time at which Caesar is crossing the Rubicon, for the only way Caesar is at all, on this view, is the way he is now, and he is not now crossing the Rubicon. Merely admitting past and future ontology is not what allows for the tenseless truth-conditions of tensed claims, it is admitting that the ways things were and will be are ways reality is. But the believer in an absolute, changing present could never secure this advantage in full generality, anyway. There has to be at least one kind of tensed claim that is not amenable to the B-Theorist’s tenseless truth-conditions: namely, claims about what times used to be and will be present.25 And once we’ve given up on the project of giving such tenseless truth-conditions for all tensed claims, I think we might as well give up on that project completely.26 There may be past and future entities, but claims about what was or will be the case are not sensitive to what past and future ontology is like. The moving spotlighter has to simply follow the presentist in saying that reality – including, for the moving spotlighter, Caesar and the first lunar colony – simply used to be, and will be, different from how it is.27 Whether this kind of moving spotlight view is ultimately better than Skow’s options is, of course, a much larger conversation. We should be grateful to Skow for carefully developing such interesting, and interestingly different, versions of the moving spotlight theory for us to investigate. I simply want to throw one more into the mix.28 Footnotes 1 See Figure 4.1 on 45. 2 See Figure 4.2 on 45. 3 See 46, including Figure 4.3. 4 47. 5 I have found Skow hard to interpret on this issue, however. He sometimes talks as if ‘It changes whether A is F’ and ‘“A is F” is only true or false relative to a time’ are interchangeable, so that something could only be true or false simpliciter if it was not subject to change. This is not uncommon in the philosophy of time literature, but it is a mistake: standard A-Theorists think that it changes whether Obama is President, but they do not think that ‘Obama is President’ is only true or false relative to a time – they think that it is false, simpliciter. Where the B-Theorist thinks that ordinary tensed sentences are metaphysically incomplete (26) – requiring you to plug in a time to get something that can be true or false – the A-Theorist thinks such claims are metaphysically complete, because the world itself provides the time of evaluation: namely, the present. Likewise, while Skow says that on MST-Supertime tensed claims are true or false relative to a point of supertime, I think we should be able to say also that they are true, or false, simpliciter: they will be true iff they are true at the point of supertime at which P is present, where P is the time which is in fact objectively present. To deny that there is such a time – to claim that we can only talk about times being present or not relative to points of supertime – is to give up on the characteristic A-Theoretic claim that there is a unique objective present. (And for all his talk of ‘t is present’ being relative to points of supertime, Skow does say that on the moving spotlight theory the question ‘Which time is present?’ has ‘a definite answer’ (45). I agree: in which case we can pick out the privileged point of supertime that gets the facts about which time is present right.) 6 The version of MST-Supertime that takes presentness to be a relational phenomenon won’t face McTaggart’s paradox. But it is wholly unmotivated: there would be no need for supertime in the first place. If presentness is a relational phenomenon, we should just accept MST-Time (below). 7 At least, this is the kind of presentism defended by, inter alia, Prior (1967). 8 49–58; see Figure 4.6 on 53. I am skipping a view Skow briefly considers but (rightly) dismisses as not credible enough to take seriously, according to which the whole of time – not just what time is present – can be said to move: see 47–9. 9 Think of ‘It super-is the case at t that p’ as saying ‘When t is present, p is a true description of the whole of the timeline’. 10 See 56–7, and Figure 4.8 on 56. 11 These are what Skow calls the weak supertensed truth-conditions: 56. 12 And let’s suppose that similar radical super-changes are also associated with the other previous times. 13 58. 14 Fine (2005). I discuss Fine’s view in Cameron 2015: §2.4. 15 67. 16 64−5. 17 Skow’s discussion of perspective-independent truths in the context of MST-Time (63−8) is rich and intriguing, and there is more to be said about the relationship between MST-Time and Fine’s Relativism, but I can’t do it here. 18 Or to a point of supertime, as in the view discussed in fn. 6. 19 Appendix 4.4, 68. 20 My presentation of McTaggart’s paradox here closely follows that of Fine (2005). Cf. Cameron (2015: Ch. 2). 21 To deny this would give us Fine’s other version of non-standard realism about tense: Fragmentalism. See Fine 2005 and Cameron 2015: §2.4 for discussion. 22 So what is Caesar like now? Different metaphysics will answer that in different ways. For my own answer, see Cameron 2015: Ch. 4. For alternative answers, see Williamson 2002, Deasy 2015 and Sullivan 2012. 23 By an amazing coincidence, it is such a version of the moving spotlight that I defend in Cameron 2015. 24 Lewis (1986: 4). 25 Cf. Sider (2003: 94−5). 26 And of course, Skow’s MST-Supertenser doesn’t think that the past and future provide all we need for the truth-conditions of tensed claims, either, since as we have seen tensed claims on this view are sensitive both to what’s happening in the past and future and what super-was and super-will be the case. 27 This of course means that the onus is on the non-presentist A-Theorist to give us a reason to believe in past and future things if they cannot do the work of allowing for tenseless truth-conditions for tensed claims. I offer my own reasons in Cameron 2015: §4.4; see Sullivan 2012 for a different story. 28 Thanks to Elizabeth Barnes, Trenton Merricks and Jason Turner for helpful comments. References Cameron R.P. 2015. The Moving Spotlight . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Deasy D. 2015. The moving spotlight theory. Philosophical Studies  172: 2073– 89. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Fine K. 2005. Tense and reality. In Modality and Tense: Philosophical Perspectives , 261– 320. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Lewis D. 1986. On The Plurality of Worlds . Oxford: Blackwell. Prior A.N. 1967. Papers on Time and Tense . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sider T. 2003. Four-Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time . Oxford: Clarendon Press. Sullivan M. 2012. The minimal A-theory. Philosophical Studies  158: 149– 74. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Williamson T. 2002. Necessary existents. In Logic, Thought and Language , ed. O’Hear A., 233– 51. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Analysis Trust. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Analysis Oxford University Press

Skow, Objective Becoming and the Moving Spotlight

Analysis , Volume 78 (1) – Jan 1, 2018

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10.1093/analys/anx154
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Abstract

Abstract Skow argues that the best metaphysic of objective becoming is the moving spotlight theory. I agree, but I think the best version of the moving spotlight theory is not amongst the theories Skow describes. I look at Skow's moving spotlight theories that invoke an extra dimension of supertime, or new primitive supertense operators, or that make presentness a fundamentally relational phenomenon, and I raise some problems for these views. I argue that the moving spotlighter should take presentness to be an absolute phenomenon that changes in time. This has consequences for what it means to say the past is real. In a surprising plot twist, Bradford Skow’s incredibly interesting book Objective Becoming is a defence of the claim that there is no objective becoming. Skow argues for the block universe view (aka the B-Theory): the view that the past, present and future are equally real, no time is metaphysically privileged, and change is simply a matter of things being one way at one point along the temporal dimension and another way at another such point. However, much of Skow’s book is spent developing what he considers to be the best rival view, and so Skow – while not believing in objective becoming himself – engages in an extensive discussion of just what it would take for there to be objective becoming. Moving Spotlight theorists like myself will find somewhat of an ally in Skow, as he argues that the best metaphysics that admit objective becoming are not presentist metaphysics on which reality encompasses only that which is present, but rather moving spotlight metaphysics on which reality encompasses the past, present and future, the present time is objectively special, and there is objective passage from the past to future. Here is the plan for this article. Skow considers various versions of the Moving Spotlight: I will explain the details of the views he takes seriously. As we will see, he thinks there are two options for capturing the idea that what time is present changes. The first is to invoke supertime, which lets us describe a change to the timeline as a whole. This, I argue, leads to views that are either outright inconsistent, or that are unnecessarily complicated. The second option is to make presentness a fundamentally relational phenomenon. This, I argue, results in views on which there is not really any passage. I will end by proposing a different way of thinking about the Moving Spotlight that I think better captures the idea of passage, and diagnosing why Skow did not see it as one of the options. According to the B-Theory, temporal reality consists simply in one thing after another. There is no privileged temporal point, and while there might be variation in how things are from one temporal point to another, temporal reality itself – how the world is across time – does not change.1 The moving spotlight theory takes this picture and picks out one temporal point as metaphysically special: the present.2 However, this can’t give us the entirety of the moving spotlight theory, as which temporal point is present is meant to change: the present moves along the timeline, from earlier points to later ones, as time passes. What, in the moving spotlighter’s picture of reality, ensures that the present used to be at another time and will be at yet another one? The B-Theorist treats change as variation across the timeline. But on the moving spotlight picture we just described, there is no variation across the timeline regarding what time is present: look backwards along the timeline and you might find dinosaurs, look forwards and you might find galactic empires, but no matter where you look the present just is where it is – that one, privileged spot. One thought, then, is that change in what time is present must consist in variation across some further dimension: supertime. This gives us the view Skow calls MST-Supertime:3 different times are present at different points of supertime. While presentness is only found at one time on the timeline (after all, look back at each time before the present: none of them is alight with presentness), it super-was the case that another time is present. Skow dismisses MST-Supertime as crazy.4 I will add that I don’t think that MST-Supertime is consistent: it is susceptible to a version of McTaggart’s paradox. If supertime really is an extra dimension of reality, then presumably the ways things are at the various points of supertime are each a part of the way reality as a whole is, simpliciter. (Just as, for the B-Theorist, what’s going on at each time contributes to the complete way reality is.) But those various states are incompatible, since they involve different times being present. The MST-Supertimer doesn’t avoid the problem simply by saying that different times are present at different supertimes, any more than you avoid the problem of temporary intrinsics simply by saying that objects are different at different times. The question is, what is ‘at t’ doing that solves the problem? If it is to signal a fundamental relativity then the problem is indeed solved: if times are never present, simpliciter, but only relative to a point of supertime, then there is no incompatibility in the way things are at one point of supertime and another. But despite Skow’s sometimes talking this way, I don’t think this is how we should understand MST-Supertime: after all, this kind of relativity is introduced explicitly when we get to MST-Time (below), and it is clearly supposed to be a departure from what we’ve had before.5 Rather, I think ‘at t’ is meant to behave on MST-Supertime similarly to how it does on the B-Theory: as a device to restrict your attention to certain goings on. But the complete account of reality should face no restrictions and include the goings on at all points of time, supertime, or whatever dimensions there are. And so MST-Supertime faces McTaggart’s paradox, since the goings on from one point of supertime to another are not compatible: they involve different times being (absolutely) present.6 Thankfully, we know how to get rid of dimensions while still doing the work they were designed to do. The presentist doesn’t believe in a dimension of time, but of course she doesn’t deny that things used to be or will be different. Instead of complicating her ontology by believing in an extra dimension, the presentist complicates her ideology by admitting primitive tense operators, that allow her to make claims about what was or will be the case without committing to a dimension along which those things are the case at some point.7 Let us follow her lead, then. While we will accept the temporal dimension, we will not accept supertime, but instead will enrich our ideology with primitive supertense operators that do for supertime what primitive tense operators do for time: allow us to make claims about what super-was or super-will be the case without believing in a dimension along which those things are the case at some point. This gives us what Skow calls MST-Supertense.8 (MST-Supertense avoids McTaggart’s paradox in analogous ways to the presentist: by denying the reality of ways the world merely super-was and super-will be. Just as the presentist holds that there were dinosaurs, but that no states of affairs involving dinosaurs contribute to the complete account of how reality is, so does the MST-Supertenser hold that a different time super-was present, but that no state of affairs involving another time’s being present contributes to the complete account of how reality is.) According to MST-Supertense, there are two kinds of change. There is what the B-Theory allows: variation across the temporal dimension. And then there is something expressible using the supertense operators: facts about how the temporal dimension as a whole super-was and super-will be. So for example, we can say that this is how reality super-is9 at time t5: There are times, t1−t10, such that each tn is after tn−1. Time t5 is objectively present. There are dinosaurs at times t1 and t2. There are lunar colonies at times t9 and t10. Humans exist but are confined to Earth at t5. Given this account of how reality super-is, there are dinosaurs at times before the time that super-is present, and lunar colonies at times after the time that super-is present, but there are no times at which a time other than t5 is present. However, what we can say is that it super-was the case that another time is present. The following is perfectly compatible with our account of what reality super-is like at t5: It super-was the case at time t4 that: There are times, t1−t10, such that each tn is after tn−1. Time t4 is objectively present. There are dinosaurs at times t1 and t2. There are lunar colonies at times t9 and t10. Humans exist but are confined to Earth at t5. Indeed, the following is also compatible with our description of how reality super-is at t5: It super-was the case at time t4 that: There are times, t1−t10, such that each tn is after tn−1. Time t4 is objectively present. There are dinosaurs at times t1 through t10. At time t5, the dinosaurs colonize the solar system; by time t10 they have colonized the galaxy. There is no time at which there are any humans. This second super-change describes a radical change to temporal reality: not only does the present move, but the entire contents of the timeline change as it moves. It super-was the case at t4 that history was one lacking in humans, where dinosaurs always exist and colonize the galaxy, but it super-is the case at t5 that dinosaurs went extinct and humans came into being and later colonize the moon. This kind of radical change to history as a whole is coherent on MST-Supertense, but Skow stipulates that the believer of that theory takes such changes to be metaphysically impossible: the only possible super-changes are changes concerning what time is present.10 Given that there are these two kinds of change – variation across the temporal dimension, and changes in what the temporal dimension itself is like – we need to know how tensed language in English works. Skow considers various options, and narrows them down to two. I’ll just focus on one; the differences aren’t important for my purposes. An ordinary English tensed claim like ‘A will be F’ super-is true at time t just in case it super-will be the case that A super-is F at a time later than t.11 That is: claims I make when t super-is present about what will be the case are sensitive not only to what is going on at times later than t, or to what super-will be the case, but rather to what super-will be going on at times later than t. To get a grip on how this plays out, consider our description above of how reality super-is at time t5, and suppose someone at t5 says ‘It was the case that dinosaurs went extinct’. If our first super-change scenario accurately represents what super-was the case at time t4 then this utterance is true at t5, because what super-was the case is that the extinction of dinosaurs occurs at a time that is before time t5. However, if our second super-change scenario accurately represents what super-was the case at time t412 then the utterance of ‘It was the case that dinosaurs went extinct’ at t5 is false, even though there super-is (at the time of utterance) an extinction event at an earlier time. That is because it is not true that there super-was an extinction event at an earlier time. So the earlier and later goings on are irrelevant to the truth or falsity of tensed claims, unless they super-were and super-will remain earlier and later goings on. That is perhaps an odd result, but remember of course that Skow has stipulated that the radical super-changes are metaphysically impossible on this metaphysic, and so happily we will never in fact end up in the scenario of saying that it super-is true that Caesar is crossing the Rubicon at an earlier time but that it wasn’t true that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Skow’s stipulated modal claim does a lot of work for the believer in MST-Supertense, then: we might ask what justification they have to believe it, given that some super-changes occur, and that the radical super-changes are just as coherent. MST-Supertense dispenses with supertime as an extra dimension, but it yields a disappointingly complicated account of change. Some, the B-Theorists, think that change is a matter of what is happening from one time to another. Some, Priorian presentists, think that change can only be captured by primitive tense operators. MST-Supertensers think that change is a matter both of what is happening across time and what we can express using primitive tense-like operators. We might wonder why we need this complicated machinery of supertime or supertense operators. Isn’t the basic idea behind the moving spotlight simply that what time is present changes? In which case, shouldn’t we just be appealing to time? Skow considers an option that dispenses with both supertime and supertense operators in favour of mere time: MST-Time. He says that on such a view each time is simply present relative (only) to itself.13 According to MST-Time there is such a thing as objective presentness (contra the B-Theory), but it is a fundamentally relational phenomenon: no time is present simpliciter, merely relative to itself. Skow says that MST-Time is similar to Fine’s Relativism;14 indeed, he’s not sure if they’re the same view.15 I think they’re not the same. The B-Theory and standard A-Theories share a common assumption: that there is a single correct description of what reality is like. The B-Theorist says that the single correct description of what reality is like is a tenseless one, describing how reality varies across time. Standard A-Theories say that the single correct description of what reality is like is one that tells you what is happening now, and what happened and will happen. Finean Relativism rejects this assumption: on Fine’s view, there is simply the description of what’s happening at time t1, the description of what’s happening at time t2, etc. And the first of these descriptions is true relative to t1, the second is true relative to t2, etc., and that is all one can say about reality. There is no way reality is absolutely, or simpliciter. Reality, on Finean Relativism, is fundamentally perspectival: the truth about how things are depends on one’s perspective on reality. But despite Skow’s talk of truth from a perspective, I don’t think this is what’s going on with MST-Time. There is a single, complete correct account of what reality is like, according to MST-Time. It goes like this: t1 is present from the perspective of t1, t2 from the perspective of t2, etc.16 This might sound like just a different way of saying the same thing as Fine, but I think there is a genuine difference here. On MST-Time, being present is an irreducibly relational phenomenon: nothing is present simpliciter, only relative to a time. The relationality is built into the phenomenon of presentness; but once we have all these facts concerning what is present relative to what, we can say that reality consists of all these relational facts together. For Fine, by contrast, the relativity is of a more radical sort. On Fine’s view, presentness is not relational. There is the fact that P is present, simpliciter. But whether reality is constituted by this fact is relative to a time. For Skow, the facts about presentness involve an irreducibly relational phenomenon – there is no being present, only being present at a time – but for each of these relational facts we can ask whether they constitute reality, simpliciter, and expect an answer. For Fine, the facts about presentness do not involve anything relational – there is just the fact of t1’s being present, of t2’s being present, etc. – but it makes no sense to ask whether any given fact constitutes reality, simpliciter, only whether it constitutes reality relative to a particular time.17 But both views share something that I think is unattractive: they abandon the thought – crucial, I think, to what motivates realism about passage in the first place – that there is something uniquely special about the present. What’s the important difference between saying that every time is special from its own perspective and saying that no time is special? I also don’t think that there is genuine passage on these views. If there is an absolute present that moves from one time to another, that sounds like passage; but if each time is simply present relative to itself,18 what passes? Why, when abandoning supertime and supertense in favour of mere time, did Skow move immediately to treating presentness as a relational, rather than absolute, phenomenon? He actually does consider a ‘time only’ view that has non-relational presentness – MST-Time with Absolute Presentness – but it is relegated to a half-page appendix,19 so Skow obviously doesn’t think it is worth much attention. This view just takes the perspectival metaphysic of MST-Time and adds to it that one time is absolutely present independent of perspective. The idea is that while each time is present relative to itself, and so ‘t1 is present’ is true relative to t1 but not true relative to t2, etc., there is also a unique time, P, that is absolutely present, and so ‘P is present’ is true, simpliciter, and its truth is not sensitive to a perspective on reality the way other truths are. I agree with Skow that this view is not worth much attention. This is a view on which there is an absolute present, but it doesn’t change: every time is present from the perspective of itself, and there is one unique time P such that P is absolutely present from the perspective of every time. In the first sense of presentness, every time has equal claim to objective presentness, whereas in the second sense of presentness, it does not change what time is objectively present. In no sense do we capture the thought that there is a unique, but changing, objective present. But why not say simply that there is a unique absolute present, but that a different time used to be the unique absolutely present time and that yet another time will be? This seems to me like the natural thing for the moving spotlighter to say, so why is it not a part of any of Skow’s options? In what remains, I want to attempt to bring out what I think is a background assumption of Skow’s that is causing him not to see this as an option; it is an assumption I think the moving spotlighter should reject. I think the reason Skow is not seeing this option is that he’s assuming that there has to be something right about the past and future perspectives. That at the very least, the past must be present from the perspective of the past, and that the future must be present from the perspective of the future. But it seems to me that the most natural thing for the A-Theorist to say is that past and future perspectives on reality are simply false perspectives: not merely false from the present perspective, just false. That – contra the multiple perspectives of MST-Time – there is simply one correct perspective on reality: namely, the present perspective on reality. There is a unique objectively present time, P, and it is because of this that the perspective on reality from P is the unique correct perspective on what reality is like. There may be a trivial sense in which every time is present from its own perspective, but this doesn’t tell us any more about what reality is really like than the claim that a fictional world is real from its own perspective. To take the A-Theory seriously, I claim, is to hold that the past and future perspectives on the world are simply incorrect: they misrepresent reality. And this is not to say that they misrepresent what reality is like now. It is to say that they misrepresent what reality is like. Simpliciter. Past perspectives on reality did correctly represent reality, and future perspectives on reality will do so, but the only correct perspective on reality, simpliciter, is the present one. That the only correct perspective on reality is the present one sounds like a distinctively presentist thought. Is it really something a non-presentist A-Theorist like the moving spotlighter can say? Yes. They can say it, and should. They can say it precisely because the non-presentist is not obliged to agree with the B-Theorist that the fundamental description of what reality is like is an atemporal one. According to the B-Theory, the fundamental description of reality is a description of how things are across time: this occurs, then that, then and so on. The presentist, of course, thinks that the fundamental description of reality is simply a description of what reality is like now. It is tempting to think that any version of non-presentism must agree that the fundamental description of reality is an atemporal one. After all, if the past and/or future are real, then the fundamental description of reality must surely include a description of that past and future reality, since the fundamental description of reality must describe all that is real. But this is a mistake. There is an ambiguity in ‘the past and future are real’. It could mean that there are past and future things – that is, that the complete ontological account of reality includes things that exist in the past and future, as well as in the present. Or it could mean that the way things were and will be is as much a part of the way reality is, simpliciter, as the way things presently are. It is the latter claim that requires the fundamental description of reality to be an atemporal one. If the ways things were and/or will be are amongst the ways reality is, then a complete description of reality had better involve reality being those ways, and thus the complete description of reality cannot simply be a description of how reality is now. But no A-Theorist should accept that the past and future are real in this sense. If the A-Theory is true, it simply cannot be the case that all the ways reality was and will be are ways reality is, for that way lies a vicious version of McTaggart’s paradox.20 1066 was present, so the presentness of 1066 is a way reality was, so if every way reality was is a way reality is then the presentness of 1066 is a way reality is. But 1066 is now past, and was future, so those would also have to be ways reality is. And so we end up with McTaggart’s result that each time is past, present and future, which is absurd. The B-Theorist can coherently say that the ways reality was and will be are as much a part of the way reality is, simpliciter, as the way reality is now, precisely because according to the B-Theory there is no contradiction between what was the case, what is now the case, and what will be the case, and that’s because what was once truly said with an utterance of the sentence ‘1066 is present’ – namely, that 1066 is the time of that utterance – is perfectly compatible with what is now truly said by an utterance of the sentence ‘1066 is past’ – namely, that 1066 is before the time of this second utterance. Skow’s MST-Timer can hold that how reality is, simpliciter, includes how it was and will be, as well as how it is now, for the same reason: the way things were and will be, on this view, are not incompatible with the way things are now. This is because, on MST-Time, the facts about what is present are each relative to a time, and it is perfectly compatible for 1066 to be present relative to 1066 but not to 2017 and for 2017 to be present relative to 2017 but not to 1066. But for the A-Theorist who believes in a changing absolute present, the ways things were and will be are simply not compatible with the way things are now. There is at least one respect in which how things were – that 1066 is objectively present – is simply not compatible with how things are now, since 1066 is not now objectively present. Thus – at least if the complete fundamental account of reality is consistent21 – the A-Theorist simply cannot admit that the complete account of reality includes the ways things were and will be in addition to the ways things are now. This is, I think, how we end up with Skow’s options. If you assume that the way reality ultimately is must consist of the ways it was and will be as well as the ways it is now, then there is simply no coherent way to have an absolute objective present that changes in time. Our choices are to give up on the absoluteness – this gives us Fine’s relativism or Skow’s MST-Time, depending on where we locate the relativity – or to take there to be such a thing as absolute objective presentness, but that it is stuck in time: that some time, P, is absolutely objectively present, and that this is not a fact that changes in time. All we can say is that absolute objective presentness moves in supertime, if we are willing to add primitive supertense operators to our ideology. Skow is explicit that he sees these as the only options: he says there are two strategies for eliminating supertime (as an actual extra dimension) from a theory: ‘We can eliminate supertime in favor of primitive supertense operators, or eliminate supertime in favor of time and talk of what is true ‘from the perspective of’ each time’ (180; see also 68) But, I argue, we are only limited to these options if we believe that reality consists of the ways it was and will be, as well as the way it is now. I think the A-Theorist should abandon the claim that the past and future are real in this sense. But this does not mean that the A-Theorist has to be a presentist, for they can think that the past and future are real in the other sense: that there exist past and future entities like Caesar and the first lunar colony. Admitting the existence of such non-present entities is compatible with saying that the only way reality is, simpliciter, is the way it is now; we simply have to say that Caesar – that thing that is entirely located in the past – is not the way he was when he was present, but rather the only way Caesar is, simpliciter, is the way he now is.22 This version of a non-presentist A-Theory departs from presentism in admitting past and future entities, but agrees with presentism that the only way any thing is, simpliciter, is the way it is now. And thus, the present perspective on reality is privileged – it is the only perspective on reality that gets things right – although we can (contra presentism) describe from the present perspective what mere past and mere future entities are now like. That is the kind of view I think we need to accept if we want to believe in an absolute objective present that changes, without resorting to supertense operators.23 The downside of such a view is that we have to give up on something that might have seemed like a benefit of non-presentist views over presentist ones: namely, that the admission of non-present ontology allows us to give tenseless truth-conditions for at least ordinary tensed claims. The B-Theorist tells us that the truth-conditions of ‘It was/will be the case that p’ are that there is a past/future time at which p is true. So ‘Caesar crossed the Rubicon’ is true because there is a past time at which Caesar is crossing the Rubicon. The presentist, of course, in eschewing past and future reality cannot tell the same story, and simply has to take ‘It was the case that …’ as a primitive bit of ideology that lets us describe past goings on. This seems like an advantage the B-Theorist has over the presentist, exactly analogous to the advantage Lewis claims his modal realism has over the actualist: it offers a reduction of ideology, paid for in the coin of ontology.24 One might have thought this advantage is available to all eternalists – indeed, that this is the primary reason to accept eternalism. However, on the kind of view I am offering, this advantage is not secured. The truth-conditions of ‘Caesar crossed the Rubicon’ can’t be, on this view, that there is a past time at which Caesar is crossing the Rubicon, for the only way Caesar is at all, on this view, is the way he is now, and he is not now crossing the Rubicon. Merely admitting past and future ontology is not what allows for the tenseless truth-conditions of tensed claims, it is admitting that the ways things were and will be are ways reality is. But the believer in an absolute, changing present could never secure this advantage in full generality, anyway. There has to be at least one kind of tensed claim that is not amenable to the B-Theorist’s tenseless truth-conditions: namely, claims about what times used to be and will be present.25 And once we’ve given up on the project of giving such tenseless truth-conditions for all tensed claims, I think we might as well give up on that project completely.26 There may be past and future entities, but claims about what was or will be the case are not sensitive to what past and future ontology is like. The moving spotlighter has to simply follow the presentist in saying that reality – including, for the moving spotlighter, Caesar and the first lunar colony – simply used to be, and will be, different from how it is.27 Whether this kind of moving spotlight view is ultimately better than Skow’s options is, of course, a much larger conversation. We should be grateful to Skow for carefully developing such interesting, and interestingly different, versions of the moving spotlight theory for us to investigate. I simply want to throw one more into the mix.28 Footnotes 1 See Figure 4.1 on 45. 2 See Figure 4.2 on 45. 3 See 46, including Figure 4.3. 4 47. 5 I have found Skow hard to interpret on this issue, however. He sometimes talks as if ‘It changes whether A is F’ and ‘“A is F” is only true or false relative to a time’ are interchangeable, so that something could only be true or false simpliciter if it was not subject to change. This is not uncommon in the philosophy of time literature, but it is a mistake: standard A-Theorists think that it changes whether Obama is President, but they do not think that ‘Obama is President’ is only true or false relative to a time – they think that it is false, simpliciter. Where the B-Theorist thinks that ordinary tensed sentences are metaphysically incomplete (26) – requiring you to plug in a time to get something that can be true or false – the A-Theorist thinks such claims are metaphysically complete, because the world itself provides the time of evaluation: namely, the present. Likewise, while Skow says that on MST-Supertime tensed claims are true or false relative to a point of supertime, I think we should be able to say also that they are true, or false, simpliciter: they will be true iff they are true at the point of supertime at which P is present, where P is the time which is in fact objectively present. To deny that there is such a time – to claim that we can only talk about times being present or not relative to points of supertime – is to give up on the characteristic A-Theoretic claim that there is a unique objective present. (And for all his talk of ‘t is present’ being relative to points of supertime, Skow does say that on the moving spotlight theory the question ‘Which time is present?’ has ‘a definite answer’ (45). I agree: in which case we can pick out the privileged point of supertime that gets the facts about which time is present right.) 6 The version of MST-Supertime that takes presentness to be a relational phenomenon won’t face McTaggart’s paradox. But it is wholly unmotivated: there would be no need for supertime in the first place. If presentness is a relational phenomenon, we should just accept MST-Time (below). 7 At least, this is the kind of presentism defended by, inter alia, Prior (1967). 8 49–58; see Figure 4.6 on 53. I am skipping a view Skow briefly considers but (rightly) dismisses as not credible enough to take seriously, according to which the whole of time – not just what time is present – can be said to move: see 47–9. 9 Think of ‘It super-is the case at t that p’ as saying ‘When t is present, p is a true description of the whole of the timeline’. 10 See 56–7, and Figure 4.8 on 56. 11 These are what Skow calls the weak supertensed truth-conditions: 56. 12 And let’s suppose that similar radical super-changes are also associated with the other previous times. 13 58. 14 Fine (2005). I discuss Fine’s view in Cameron 2015: §2.4. 15 67. 16 64−5. 17 Skow’s discussion of perspective-independent truths in the context of MST-Time (63−8) is rich and intriguing, and there is more to be said about the relationship between MST-Time and Fine’s Relativism, but I can’t do it here. 18 Or to a point of supertime, as in the view discussed in fn. 6. 19 Appendix 4.4, 68. 20 My presentation of McTaggart’s paradox here closely follows that of Fine (2005). Cf. Cameron (2015: Ch. 2). 21 To deny this would give us Fine’s other version of non-standard realism about tense: Fragmentalism. See Fine 2005 and Cameron 2015: §2.4 for discussion. 22 So what is Caesar like now? Different metaphysics will answer that in different ways. For my own answer, see Cameron 2015: Ch. 4. For alternative answers, see Williamson 2002, Deasy 2015 and Sullivan 2012. 23 By an amazing coincidence, it is such a version of the moving spotlight that I defend in Cameron 2015. 24 Lewis (1986: 4). 25 Cf. Sider (2003: 94−5). 26 And of course, Skow’s MST-Supertenser doesn’t think that the past and future provide all we need for the truth-conditions of tensed claims, either, since as we have seen tensed claims on this view are sensitive both to what’s happening in the past and future and what super-was and super-will be the case. 27 This of course means that the onus is on the non-presentist A-Theorist to give us a reason to believe in past and future things if they cannot do the work of allowing for tenseless truth-conditions for tensed claims. I offer my own reasons in Cameron 2015: §4.4; see Sullivan 2012 for a different story. 28 Thanks to Elizabeth Barnes, Trenton Merricks and Jason Turner for helpful comments. References Cameron R.P. 2015. The Moving Spotlight . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Deasy D. 2015. The moving spotlight theory. Philosophical Studies  172: 2073– 89. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Fine K. 2005. Tense and reality. In Modality and Tense: Philosophical Perspectives , 261– 320. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Lewis D. 1986. On The Plurality of Worlds . Oxford: Blackwell. Prior A.N. 1967. Papers on Time and Tense . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sider T. 2003. Four-Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time . Oxford: Clarendon Press. Sullivan M. 2012. The minimal A-theory. Philosophical Studies  158: 149– 74. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Williamson T. 2002. Necessary existents. In Logic, Thought and Language , ed. O’Hear A., 233– 51. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Analysis Trust. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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