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Title: A defence of presentism
Author: Bourne, C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2002
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In Chapter 1, I argue that there are only two tenable theories of time: the tenseless theory, and presentism. The tenseless theory currently dominants the philosophy of time, whereas presentism has been neglected. The aim of the Ph.D, is therefore to develop and defend presentism, given that it is what I take to be the only serious rival to the tenseless theory. Chapter 2 specifies some conditions that any satisfactory theory of time should meet. I argue that previous attempts at formulating presentism have violated at least one of these conditions. I then develop a suitable metaphysics and semantics for presentism that meets the conditions. Chapter 3 meets further philosophical problems that presentism faces, such as McTaggart's argument, how to treat transtemporal relations, how names for past objects can have any meaning without a referent, and how it is possible to hold that future contingent statements have indeterminate truth-values without having to reject the laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle. Presentism has also come under attack from arguments from the special and general theories of relativity (STR and GTR, respectively). Chapter 4 deals with the implications of STR, and argues that, contra majority opinion, STR and presentism are perfectly compatible. Chapter 5 deals with the implications of the pathological space-time models is GTR, such as Gödel's, which includes the existence of closed timelike curves. Gödel argues: The flow of time is an essential feature of time; there is a world where time cannot flow; therefore, time cannot flow in any world, and hence is unreal in all worlds (even the actual world, in which time is linear). I analyse the most interesting ways one can attack this argument, which results in wide-ranging and unexpected conclusions: Gödel's model does constrain theses about time in the actual world, Gödel's own conclusion - that time is unreal - is, however, too strong: both the tenseless theory and presentism survive. Chapter 6 discusses whether, as has been thought by some, expanding models of the universe can help to define the notion of temporal becoming. I use some arguments from the previous chapter to argue that it cannot. Chapter 7 discusses the analogies between space, time and modality, and argues that although it is plausible to hold that only the actual world and only one temporal location exists, we need not hold the analogous but implausible position with regard to space.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available