Actualism, Presentism and the Grounding Objection
Received: 2 June 2017 / Accepted: 2 May 2018
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract Presentism is the view that only presently existing things exist. Actualism
is the view that only actually existing things exist. Although these views have much
in common, the position we take with respect to one of them is not usually thought
to constrain the position that we may take toward the other. In this paper I argue that
this standard attitude deserves further scrutiny. In particular, I argue that the con-
siderations that motivate one common objection to presentism—the grounding
objection—threaten to give rise to an analogous grounding objection to actualism.
Those who are moved by grounding considerations to give up presentism should
either be moved by analogous considerations to give up actualism as well or be
prepared to undertake quite a bit of further work in order to defend their position.
Actualism is the view that only actually existing things exist. Presentism is the view
that only presently existing things exist. At ﬁrst glance, at least, these two views
have much in common. Both are minimalist ontologies that limit what exists to a
speciﬁc type of entity. As such they share a common structure and motivation and
are subject to similar initial objections. It is no surprise, then, that philosophers often
point to the analogy between these two views when attempting to clarify their
But at the same time philosophers rarely, if ever, seem to think that their
position with respect to one of these views ultimately constrains the position that
they can accept with respect to the other. Actualists, for instance, do not generally
feel the need to respond to objections to presentism in order to defend their position.
& Nina Emery
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, USA
As two inﬂuential examples, consider Stalnaker (1984, chapter 3), Sider (2001, chapter 2).