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David Brightly
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Hello Bill. Yes, and we have discussed some of these arguments in these pages. I was hoping you would comment on my modal intuition that Conan Doyle's words appear as history in some possible world. If this intuition is well-founded then Sherlock would seem to be a possible item, contradicting the standard argument re fictional and possible objects.
Bill, you write,The purely fictional is barred from actuality by its very status as purely fictional: Sherlock Holmes cannot be actualized. What cannot be actualized is not possible; it is impossible. Sherlock Holmes is an impossible item.Conan Doyle wrote the Holmes stories as if they were accounts of Holmes's investigations written up by Dr. Watson. What you say is very much at odds with the intuition that there is a possible world in which a John Watson writes a history of a detective called Sherlock Holmes using exactly Conan Doyle's words.
Bill,Thinking a little deeper, however, (P-Always) seems contradictory: it implies that at each time there are no non-present times and that at each time there are non-present times. As a thesis as to what exists in space and time does presentism say anything at all about the structure of space and time? Are points in space and moments in time existents in space and time? Can the presentist really be thought of as denying himself quantification over times? That would be be to deny himself the use of 'always' and 'sometime' which surely form part of the common understanding of both presentist and anti-presentist.
Bill,Presentism, as a thesis about the very Being of all beings, restricts everything to the present time, including the temporal modes, past and future. This is surely an inference too far. Presentism is a thesis about substantial change not accidental change. In a world with accidental change but no substantial change presentism would be vacuously true but time would remain. Perhaps an alternative conclusion from the argument is that presentism implies that temporal determinations are not properties.
Hello Bill, We can agree that neither the photo nor the sentence is empty of content. You say that the presentist is obliged to allow that the photo represents nothing because no man in reality looks like the man in the photo. I think the presentist can say the photo represents (re+presents) my father on a certain day in his life, and that the photo did so as long as my father existed, and beyond. His becoming wholly past hasn't changed what the photo represents. The photo is a true image of my father---it hasn't been tampered with in any way---and will remain so until it itself ceases to exist. Likewise, the presentist can say that sentence S represents an event on a day in the past (it's past-tensed) and that S is true in that the represented event occurred and the individuals involved existed. That the event is no longer ongoing and its participants no longer extant doesn't change what S is about. Perhaps we can reword S as 'There was a killing, K, of Oswald by Ruby'. Then the problem for the presentist is to explain how this can be now true given that the names now have no extant referents.
This comment is somewhat off-topic but is brought to mind by the present example. A bystander at the shooting might well have immediately cried out 'Someone shot Oswald'. This fact comes into the world ready-made in the past tense. Only later did we find out that the perpetrator was Ruby and that he succeeded in killing Oswald. Two questions here: Can the truthmaker objection be brought to bear on this sentence? and Why would the bystander naturally use the past tense?
I should think that once the presentist has been backed into the corner of defending surrogacy or ersatzism he has lost the game. Rather, he should say that the anti-presentist argument goes off the rails at stage (5), that the inference from (3) and (4) to (5) fails. Here is an analogous and even shorter anti-presentist argument: My father is wholly past, and according to presentism the photo I have of him is a photo of nothing. But the photo clearly is not of nothing, ergo presentism is false. Now, I don't think anyone would make this latter argument, perhaps because we understand how a photograph captures a moment in time. But suppose that a photo's being of something is relevantly analogous to a sentence's being about something. Then just as 'This photo is of nothing' doesn't follow from 'this photo is of my father' and 'my father is nothing' so ''Ruby killed Oswald' (S) is about nothing' doesn't follow from 'S is about Ruby' and 'Ruby is nothing'.
Hello Bill, Yes, of course English can be used tenselessly. In contrast with Mandarin and English* which augment their untensed verbs with explicit signifiers to convey tense, English lacks a way of detensing its tensed verbs. Or rather, we can insert the adverb 'tenselessly' if we want but mostly don't bother. It's as if we recognise that abstract subject matter doesn't need tensed verbs. Indeed, it hardly needs verbs at all, witness the predicate calculus. Regarding, 'When/where a thing is has no bearing on whether it is.' I find this almost as slippery as Quine's fish, lately resurfaced, to which there are affinities. What is meant by 'has no bearing'? You can't be denying the inference from 'JC is in Rome' to 'JC exists'? And I'm confident that JC's existence in the first century BC was just as robust then as mine is now. I hold that 'X exists' entails 'X exists*' but not conversely.
Thank you, Bill, that helps a very great deal, especially the remarks about dinosaurs, horses, etc. When you say JC exists tenselessly,which I will write as JC exists*,I think you are speaking in a new language which I call English*. This language looks very much like English but all the verbs are untensed and written with a trailing asterisk. By 'untensed' I mean that there are no inflections or other constructions in or associated with the verb word that signify temporal position. I'm not an expert but I believe that the verbs in Mandarin are untensed in this sense. Where you say, When a thing is has no bearing on whether it is,which I find somewhat nebulous, I prefer to say that 'exists*' or 'blogs*' convey no information about when a thing exists or when a thing blogs. So if, as you say, existence* by its very nature is tenseless, I say also that blogging* by its very nature is tenseless and just as time-independent as existence*. As described so far, English* has less logical power than English. For Socrates is* bald, and Socrates is* hairy,are not contraries. To bring English* up to par we must add 'temporal qualifiers' of some sort. Maybe temporal stages to objects, or temporally qualified properties, or maybe adverbial qualifiers as in, Presently, Socrates is* bald, Pastly, Socrates is* hairy, etc.This gives us a translation scheme between English and English*,Xs exist no longer <---> Xs exist* ∧ wholly pastly, Xs are*, Xs exist <---> Xs exist* ∧ presently, Xs are*, Xs will exist <---> Xs exist* ∧ wholly futurely, Xs are*,and existence* comes out as disjunctive omnitemporality. What do I think this adds up to? First, because the properties of and relations between numbers are fixed an untensed language like English* unextended with 'adverbial temporal qualifiers' is adequate for discussing arithmetic. Second, what we can say in English using phrases like 'exists tenselessly' can be said in English* using 'exists*'. Third, tenseless existence seems to be of no more metaphysical significance than tenseless blogging.
Morning Bill, I sometimes think our disagreement is about how certain terms are to be used. Compare these claims,1. The past is in some sense 'there.' Deny that and you are saying that the past is nothing, in which case historians have no object of study. 2. The past was in some sense 'there.' Deny that and you are saying that the past was nothing, in which case historians have no object of study. I think of 'the past' in this context as collectively referring to multiple things and events. 'The wholly past' denotes a subset of the past. There is also in these sentences an implicit universal quantification over these sets. So I test the truth of these assertions by choosing randomly an element, usually Julius Caesar, making a textual substitution, and asking how comfortable I am with the modified assertions. 1'. JC is in some sense 'there.' Deny that and you are saying that JC is nothing, in which case historians (of JC) have no object of study. 2'. JC was in some sense 'there.' Deny that and you are saying that JC was nothing, in which case historians (of JC) have no object of study. I find I'm perfectly happy with (2'). Not so with (1'). 'JC' names a thing in time so tenseless 'is' is inapplicable. I have only present tensed 'is'. My presentism says that JC in no sense is 'there'. It follows that JC is nothing, but in my view it doesn't follow from that that historians of JC have no object of study. The problem I have is that I find (2) so innocuously the right thing to say that I'm constantly surprised that you always opt for formulation (1). Is that Problemverlust?
Why is it thought that Einsteinian space-time supports eternalism? What Einstein seems to exclude is a universal clock and, for each event, a universal simultaneity, with 'universal' meaning equally applicable to all inertial frames, aka, 'absolute'. Observers can disagree as to the rate of their clocks---they can assign different time coordinates to the one event---and they can disagree as to which events occur simultaneously with that one event. Nevertheless, two observers coinciding at an event will agree which events are in the past of that event and which events are in its future. They identify their pasts and futures regardless of their relative velocity. Compare this with Newtonian space-time. The latter has a universal clock and a universal simultaneity. Its geometry differs somewhat from Einsteinian space-time. If presentism makes sense for Newton then why not for Einstein? Neither system has anything labelled 'the present' in it. Galileo could have drawn a space-time picture to illustrate the motion of balls running down his inclined plane. Again, it would not have had 'the present moment' in it. Why? Perhaps because the laws of physics in each of these systems are time-invariant.
Presentism must surely contain the idea that what's present changes with time. So the presentist would say that (an object or event of) the past was factual, not fictional, was actual, not merely possible, was something, not nothing. Why impose the present tense, or indeed no tense at all, here? History, archaeology, palaeontology investigate not so much the past but vestiges (from vestigium, footprint or track) of the past. Things from the past that are not wholly past, such as documents, artifacts, and fossils that have come down to us. These things are sometimes hidden away in archives and attics, or under the soil, or in rock strata, and have to be discovered. But then comes a process of invention whereby a story about the past is put together that must be consistent with the found vestiges. Sometimes the account is revised in the light of new discoveries. Such an account may well contain truths but we cannot be sure. We can't acquaint ourselves with the wholly past. My problem with your thought experiment is that it makes the past never to have existed and makes any account we might give of the past into a fiction, a kind of unreality. This is one extreme. The opposite extreme is an ultra-realism that insists that the past must be there somewhen in order that we know it. I'm inclined to think that the truth is some hard to find and narrow to tread path between these two.
I can't exactly feel your pain, Bill, but I'll admit to a certain 'falling through the floor' sensation when the implications of my train of thought dawned on me more fully. Yes, I would have to give up your (1). I take it that 'is' here is present-tensed? Then perhaps you could say that S is a formless lump of brass and as such is not a fully-fledged hylomorphic compound. But then S has lost its S-ness. I think I too want to uphold the reality of the past. But does this require that it exist tenselessly---surely that would put it outside time altogether---or that it survive into the present in some attenuated form? If today's 'today' and tomorrow's 'yesterday' are co-referential, and the things of today are real, then the things of tomorrow's yesterday will have been real too, even if some of them will have ceased to exist by tomorrow. I have been reading Dummett's 'The Reality of the Past'. Hard pounding.
Morning Bill. I can indeed conceive of a material thing becoming wholly past without it ceasing to exist. I just don't think this happens. I understand ceasing to exist as a process extended in time in which the matter of an object returns to the undifferentiated bulk from which the object first stood out. If a thing becomes wholly past without this process occurring then one moment the thing is present and the next it is not. Some mass just vanishes. And this violates the principle of the conservation of mass. We are in a position analogous with triangularity/trilaterality. There are geometrical reasons that these distinct concepts are always co-instantiated. Likewise physical reasons in the present case. However, you appear to move from conceivability to possibility: 'An item can become wholly past without prejudice to its existence'. In the next sentence: 'Now obviously "existence" here refers to tense-free existence'. So perhaps you are urging that by leaving the present in this way a thing embarks on a new mode of existence in the past. But I don't think that can be right either because elsewhere you claim that Scollay Square is in that mode yet it surely underwent a cessation of existence process involving wrecking balls and bulldozers. So, yes, you are quite correct: I am not following your line of thought.
Hello Bill, you say,If you can grasp that, then it ought to be at least conceivable that when a thing is has no bearing on whether it is.My suspicion is that 'when a thing is' is wrongly tensed. 'When a thing is' means just the present, now. So your claim is that what's conceivable is that the present has no bearing on whether a thing is. But this is false. Instead, allow a little time to elapse and talk about the present situation in the past tense: It ought to be at least conceivable that when a thing was has no bearing on whether it was. Not just conceivable but true. Likewise, a translation into the future rendersAn item can become wholly past without prejudice to its existence.asAn item can have become wholly past without prejudice to its having existed, and the rationale for 'tense-free existence' evaporates.
Just what you say at (YES) above, Bill. See also here. Can I ask, If, under the (NO) view, Scollay Square has not ceased to exist, then what if anything has done so?
Morning Bill, Yes, count me as an existence presentist. I have never understood the formulations involving 'tenseless existence'. I think of 'existing' and 'being present' as co-extensive terms, just as 'triangular' and 'trilateral'. I also think your formulation, that (every element of) the past is nothing, is admirably clear and distinguishes our positions. I say there can be references to Scollay Square, truths about it, memories of it, research into it, etc, despite its being nothing. Or rather, its being rubble and dust, that is, being nothing that stands out (ex+sistere).
But (1), (2), and (3) are inconsistent. Together they imply that some event both exists and no longer exists.
Toggle Commented Apr 11, 2020 on Presentism and Regret at Maverick Philosopher
Hello Bill, and thanks once again for your critique. We do seem to think in rather different ways. o Suppose I'm acquainted with Katie the caterpillar. Unbeknown to me Katie turns into a butterfly. I would say that my memories of Katie are memories of a caterpillar not memories of a butterfly---memories of a wingless, many-legged thing rather than a winged, six-legged thing. And this holds whatever subsequently happens to Katie. o I baulk at actual and the other modal terms as concept words because I think they lead to contradiction. We touched on a counting argument for this once before, I think. Basically, there seem to be vastly more possible men than men. If possible were a concept word there would be fewer. Much of what I say in the piece under discussion stems from a conviction that certain terms such as dead, past, actual, possible, fictional,... that function grammatically as adjectives do not predicate properties of concrete objects. Elucidating how they do operate is an ongoing project of mine. An early stab at this is here. o Following Zalta I think that both ideas and concrete objects are complete in respect of the properties they exemplify, but an idea of an object is incomplete in respect of the properties it encodes---those properties the idea attributes to the object. But this is to reinterpret completeness in the light of a theory, of course. o I completely agree that dead is a very tricky term which clouds the issues at stake here. I am oversimplifying by compressing to zero the period in which an organism can remain dead before ceasing to exist. A dead tree may stand for years. But I think our disagreement goes deeper. I prefer to say that Tom Petty was a man, not a duck or a valve-lifter. o You are right that I want to stay within tensed language. No one has taught me how to use untensed language. I'm happy to remain a tautological presentist, though I'm not sure how seriously to take the truthmaker objection. That past-tensed statements can have been made true in the past and then remain true merely reflects the fixity of the past on which we all agree.
Toggle Commented Apr 11, 2020 on Time and the Existing Dead at Maverick Philosopher
I agree that's the point in dispute. What I'm having trouble accepting is the characterisation of truth-making in the form x makes-true y where x is presumably a state of affairs and y a sentence. This may be satisfactory when everything is in the present but I think my Kennedy example shows it to be too coarse-grained when y is past-tensed. We need something more akin to x@t1 makes-true y@t2 understood as soa x holding at time t1 makes-true sentence y uttered at time t2. This allows interesting distinctions even with present-tensed y. For example, BV's blogging at 3pm does not makes-true "BV blogs" said at 2pm even though "BV blogs" may be true at 2pm.
Good Morning, Bill, and thank you for those words of encouragement. I wrote that piece thinking that a presentist ought to be able to do better than say that contingent past tensed truths were brute, as here. Some kind of grounding needs to be offered. But also that truthmaking theory seems to leave out an important linguistic element. Namely that part of what makes 'Tom is red' true when Tom is red is that 'Tom' is the 'right' way to refer to your tomato friend, that 'red' is the right way to refer to his colour, and that 'is' is the right way of tensing the sentence. You say that it is difficult to see how the truthmaker of (T) that DID exist, but does not now exist, can serve as the truthmaker of S. It seems the obvious candidate to my naive understanding of truthmaker theory. What does theory demand that I'm missing?
A counter argument to your objection, Bill: Ideas exist (but are not spatio-temporal). Ideas are individuated and can be seen as objects. Ideas are incomplete---my idea of the golden mountain encodes just two properties, golden and mountain. Ergo, incomplete objects do exist (but are not spatio-temporal). This is where I side with Ed on this. I'm not identifying the golden mountain with an idea. There is no such thing as the golden mountain, neither a spatio-temporal thing nor an idea. Just as I don't identify you with my idea of you. You and my idea of you are two distinct things that naturally correspond even though just one is spatio-temporal. I do have an idea of the golden mountain but it has no correspondent.
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2019 on Beingless Objects at Maverick Philosopher
One of the papers on Ed Zalta's 'computational metaphysics' site says that set-theoretic models have been constructed for Zalta's neo-Meinongian theory of objects. So Zalta's system is as consistent as set theory is. As Zalta decouples existence, thought of as spatio-temporality, from quantification it would therefore seem that there is no logical necessity to tie them together. Consequently Ed will not be able to refute Meinongianism. But if Zalta's system is a consistent extension of ordinary predicate logic, what are we to make of those 'objects' within it that don't satisfy the E! predicate, ie, are not spatio-temporal? The obvious interpretation is to think of them as ideas of objects. This would be a return to Meinong's original problem of objects of intentionality. That 'objects' that merely encode finitely many properties are incomplete strongly suggests that they are ideas. Quantification is then over a union of spatio-temporal objects that have being and ideas of objects that do not, at least not in the same sense. This relieves some of the discomfort we feel towards talk of 'non-existent' objects.
Toggle Commented Nov 5, 2019 on Beingless Objects at Maverick Philosopher
Bill, You seem to be saying that there is a common sense intuition that it is better to be Julius Caesar (example of a 'has-been') than to be Sherlock Holmes (example of a 'never-was'), merely on the grounds that JC existed and SH didn't. I'm afraid that's a bit too subtle for my common sense. Rather, I suspect that the widely-held intuition in this vicinity, as your examples suggest, is that it is better to be able to look back on a life of incident and achievement than otherwise. But this is a matter of human psychology and has little to do with our understanding of time. You say, ...what was has an ontological status superior to that which never was -- which has no ontological status at all. As an instance of this general claim let's take, Julius Caesar has an ontological status superior to that of Sherlock Holmes. How might a presentist interpret this? I don't think we can read it as ascribing a property to objects, or as setting objects in some relation. We must be mentioning the names here rather than using them. We seem to be reminding ourselves that 'Julius Caesar' names a long gone historical personage whereas 'Sherlock Holmes' names a character in a work of mere fiction, and the former outranks the latter in 'ontological status'. What can we find in the present that makes this true? Both names are known only by description and each of us knows a rough biographical account of each man. I suggest that 'ontological status' attaches to these accounts. In the one case we know that there once was a man that matched the account and in the other case we know there never was such a man. Our understanding of time is not independent of wider philosophical considerations.
Ed, Bill, My concern is with the assertion status and truth value of the statements that appear in the scope of the hypothesis. A typical RAA looks like this: Suppose p q r s : z ~z ergo, ~pWhen we rehearse the argument we treat p, q, r... in no way different from statements outside the scope of the Suppose. The sequence p, q, r... might be lengthy and while we focus on the inferences between them we see them as asserted and having truth values. Yet when we reach ~z we realise that it's not possible to assign consistent truth values to all of these statements, and I'm not exactly comfortable with that. One way of resolving the difficulty is to abandon assertion and truth value and see the whole business in purely formal terms as a calculus over symbols. But I'm not entirely happy with that, either.