A Sketch of (an Actually Serious) Meinongian Presentism

Michele Paolini Paoletti 1
  • 1 Università degli Studi di Macerata, via Garibaldi 20, 62100 Macerata MC, Italy
Michele Paolini Paoletti

Abstract

In this paper I shall “draw” a sketch of a version of Meinongian Presentism. After having briefly presented some data that presentists need to explain and three problems that typically affect presentism (the triviality objection, the problem of the reference of true propositions’ constituents that seem to involve merely past and merely future objects, the truthmaking problem), I shall clarify the bases of my theory. First, I shall reject the actualist presentist assumption, according to which there are no things that do not exist now. Secondly, I shall introduce some notions (e.g., the ones of tensed properties and of temporal existence) that will be useful in order to clarify the contrast between eternalist and non-eternalist metaphysical theories of time. Thirdly, I shall define Meinongian Presentism. Finally, I shall try to demonstrate that this version can deal with the aforementioned problems and with the presentist data in a serious and perspicuous way.

I shall present in this article an original Meinongian version of presentism, according to which there is nothing that is not present (this is the presentist aspect of the theory), even if there are now things that do not now exist and, more generally, there are now things that do not exist (this is the Meinongian aspect). I shall try to demonstrate that this theory is a viable and serious option for presentists who aim at dealing with three problems typically connected with presentism: the triviality objection; the problem of the reference of true propositions’ constituents that seem to involve merely past and merely future objects; the truthmaking problem.

One of the major advantages of presentist theories in metaphysics of time consists in their being able to give reason to substantial change, i.e., to things’ absolutely coming and ceasing to exist (see, for example, Markosian (2004)). A preliminary formulation of presentism is:

(presentism) there are no things that are not present.

This seems to imply that things start to exist and stop existing. In fact, let me consider the (seemingly) true propositions expressed by

  1. (1)Mario has started to exist,and
  2. (2)Socrates has ceased to exist.Since it is true that (1), it is also true that
  3. (3)Mario did not exist (before the time of his birth),and, since it is true that (2), it is also true that
  4. (4)Socrates does not exist anymore.
If we accept (presentism), we can claim that it is true that (3) because there was no object such as Mario before the time of his birth, i.e., Mario was not present before that time, and that it is true (4) because Socrates is not present anymore, even though he was present. On the other hand, non-presentist theories of time seem to deny that things actually start to exist and stop existing (as eternalists do 1) or that they stop existing, even if they start to exist (as pastists do).

Presentist Data and Problems

However, as it is well known, presentist theories have many problems on their own. I shall briefly consider here three problems: the triviality objection against presentism; the reference of true propositions’ constituents; the truthmaker problem.

The triviality objection against presentism has been widely discussed, among others, by Meyer (2005), Crisp (2004, 2005), Ludlow (2004), Savitt (2006). In brief, considering (presentism) and the fact that presentists are committed to the meaningfulness of tensed predication, it is worth asking whether the quantifier expressed by “there are” is used in a tensed or untensed (or disjunctive) way. In fact, if we regard the quantifier “there are” as tensed, presentists seem to claim that there are no present things (namely, that there aret no things 2) that are not present things. This is trivially true, but it does not exclude that there areu things that are not present (e.g., past things). On the other hand, one might try to interpret the quantifier in a disjunctive or untensed way. Thus, if we follow the first strategy, what is asserted by (presentism) is that there neither was, nor aret, nor will be things that are not present. The second strategy turns out to assert that there areu no things that are not present. However, both strategies are problematic. The former implies falsehoods: for example, that there were things that are not present (e.g., Socrates). Concerning the latter, presentists are forced to assumed that there is an untensed reading of the existential quantifier, that is somehow different from the disjunctive tensed reading and according to which there isu something such as Socrates, even if Socrates is not present. Yet, what does the untensed existence expressed by this reading of the quantifier amount to, at least within the presentist perspective? On the one hand, one might state that such an untensed existence corresponds to temporal existence, so that the presentist is committed to the thesis that there (temporally) are no things that are not present. Yet, this thesis is plainly false, since there (temporally) are things that are not present: for example, Socrates, whose existence is now denied. On the other hand, as it has been suggested by Meyer (2005), presentists might argue that untensed existence corresponds to a disjunction of all the ways of existing (e.g., temporally existing or atemporally existing or merely possibly existing). Yet, it is always false that there (atemporally) are things that are not present (no atemporal existent is present) and that there (merely possibly) are things that are not present (no merely possible existent is present, since it does not exist), so that the only case that is worth considering is the one concerning temporal existence.

The second problem concerns the reference of true propositions’ constituents. If we claim that:

  1. (a)it is true that (2);
  2. (b)(2) expresses the true proposition [Socrates has ceased to exist] 3;
  3. (c)the logical subject [Socrates] must refer to something in order for that proposition to be true;
  4. (d)it is true that (presentism),
then [Socrates] cannot refer to Socrates, since Socrates is not present anymore, so that there is nothing such as Socrates. Thus, what does [Socrates] refer to? In order to deal with this problem, one could state that it is false that (b), since (2) expresses some other proposition that is revealed by some paraphrase (e.g., the proposition [the property of being identical with Socrates – that now exists – is not instantiated anymore]). However, the paraphrase strategy is needed only if one accepts the presentist thesis expressed by (d). This perhaps reveals a weakness of the paraphrase strategy: we have no independent reason (i.e., no reason independent from the acceptance of presentism) for denying that (2) expresses the proposition [Socrates has ceased to exist] and for affirming that it expresses some other proposition whose truth is compatible with presentism.

A third problem for presentism arises if we investigate the truth-conditions of statements (or of propositions) that are now true, 4 but that cannot be made true by objects that exist now (see Keller (2004) and, for a general survey, Dainton (2010, 81–102)). What makes a statement (or a proposition) true is a truthmaker for that statement (or proposition). Truthmakers need to exist in order to make statements (or propositions) true. However, it is now true that

  1. (5)Socrates was a philosopher.
Yet, if Socrates does not exist now, he can neither make it true that (5), nor can he be part of the truthmaker for (5) (or for the proposition expressed by (5)). Thus, what makes it true that (5)? Presentists typically affirm that it is now true that (5) in virtue of something else not involving the present existence of Socrates (e.g., of some relation holding between propositions or between properties or of some property instantiated by the world).

However, many versions of presentism are characterized by the acceptance of an actualist assumption (see Bergmann (1999) and Crisp (2005)), according to which

(actualism) there are no things that do not exist, 5

so that such presentists are committed to the truth of an actualist version of (presentism), namely

(act.presentism) there exist no things that are not present (=that do not exist now).

In addition, presentists need to show the truth-conditions of some seemingly true propositions, such as the ones expressed by

  1. (6)Mario exists now;
  2. (7)Socrates existed.

The sketch of Meinongian Presentism that I shall “draw” here is grounded on the denial of (act.presentism). I shall try to show that Meinongian Presentism can deal with the data and problems that I have briefly mentioned in a more convincing and perspicuous way than actualist versions of Presentism.

The Bases of Meinongian Presentism

My version of Meinongian Presentism differs from Routley’s, Hinchliff’s and Yourgrau’s non-actualist versions of Presentism in several respects (see Routley (1979, 361–409), Hinchliff (1988, 1996, 2010) and Yourgrau (1987, 2000)). It accepts some theses about past-oriented properties and future-oriented properties that are presented and defended in Orilia (2012) and (2015). In fact, it does not accept – in opposition to Yourgrau’s presentism – that there is a distinction between being and existing. In my perspective, it is neither necessary to claim that things which do not exist now do not have now being, nor that things which do not exist nevertheless have being, provided that nothing forces us to attribute some mysterious being – different from existence – to things that do not exist (and/or that do not exist now). Moreover, my theory is overtly Meinongian – in opposition to Hinchliff’s presentism – as long as it explicitly denies the truth of (actualism) (and such a denial is often associated with the philosophy of Alexius Meinong’s and of Neo-Meinongians) 6. Finally, it analyzes the truth-conditions of tensed statements such as (1)–(7) in a way that sensibly differs from Routley’s theory and it implies no revision of classical logic – while Routley maintains that past objects that do not now exist are indeterminate and, in order to grasp their indeterminacy, it is necessary to distinguish between two different sorts of negation. Thus, this version of Meinongian presentism is not committed to unclear distinctions between being and existence, 7 nor to the indeterminacy of past objects, nor to the distinction between two different sorts of negation (two unorthodox theses that require further defense). Moreover, it explicitly assumes that (actualism) is false and the benefit deriving from this move will be clear in a few pages.

I cannot defend here all the assumptions of Meinongian Presentism. In particular, I cannot defend a substantivalist view of times (according to which, roughly, there are times that are different from one another independently of things that occupy those times) and a peculiar view of tenses (according to which tenses should be primarily considered property-modifiers, i.e., they primarily introduce new properties by modifying seemingly untensed properties).

Meinongian Presentism accepts the thesis that not every object exists, i.e., that it is legitimate to quantify over and to attribute properties to objects that do not exist. Thus, Meinongian Presentists claim that our quantifiers are not existentially committal: when we assert that there is an object that is now identical with Socrates (or that there is now an object that is identical with Socrates), we are not committed to the existence of Socrates, nor to some “being” different from existence that is now attributed to Socrates. We only assert that such an object has identity conditions and that it now has identity conditions, so that it is now meaningful and veridical to claim that he had (or that he still has) some properties, that Socrates, even if he does not exist anymore, is different from me, from Pegasus, from Plato, from my merely future son, and so on. 8 It turns out that existence is a first-order property that is instantiated by some objects and not instantiated by some other objects simpliciter (e.g., fictional objects do not instantiate existence simpliciter) or at different times (e.g., merely past objects once instantiated existence, even though they do not instantiate it anymore).

My version of Meinongian Presentism uses some strategies that are typically accepted by non-presentists and that are rejected by many (actualist) presentists. In particular, it mixes times and tenses qua property-modifiers in order to evaluate the truth-conditions of tensed propositions. Firstly, I shall spend some words on times and tenses and give a preliminary view of tensed properties. Secondly, I shall formalize my approach and introduce some basic notions, in order to contrast eternalism and non-eternalism and in order to define, among non-eternalist positions, presentism and, among presentist positions, Meinongian Presentism. Thirdly, I shall try to demonstrate the superiority of Meinongian Presentism over other positions in dealing with the problems of substantial change and of the truth-conditions of propositions involving merely past objects. Fourthly, I shall deal with the nature of propositions and the difference between truth at times and truth simpliciter. Finally, I shall analyze the data presented in the first section.

From my perspective, times are non-existent and non-mental objects that are identified in virtue of the relation of simultaneity. 9 Given two times, they are identical iff they are simultaneous with one another. On the other hand, they are different iff they are not simultaneous with one another, i.e., iff one of them precedes or (aut) follows the other. As I have already said, this conception of times is committed to a substantivalist view of times. Nevertheless, there might be fundamental physical facts that determine the difference between times. It is worth noticing that, if there are such facts, they are not in time, they obtain at no time, since they ground the identity of times and such an identity cannot be presupposed by claiming that such facts presently obtain with regard to some time or another.

Tenses are primarily considered property-modifiers. A tensed property is a property that can be obtained by modifying non-tensed properties (using temporal adverbs, such as “presently”, “pastly” and “futurely”) and by adding some temporal index. From this perspective, tensed properties are always instantiated with regard to times: there is no object that instantiate the property of presently being a man simpliciter, since every object that presently is a man has that feature with regard to some time. It is not the case that Socrates presently is a man with regard to this time (the present time), while it is the case that he pastly is a man (i.e., that he was a man) with regard to this time. On the other hand, there is a time that precedes the present time and with regard to which Socrates presently is a man. The property of presently being such-and-such with regard to some t may be redundant in some cases: for example, Socrates presently is pastly a man with regard to t (a property that is redundant) iff he pastly is a man with regard to t. Thus, given the property of being a man, that property can be modified in order to obtain the tensed properties of presently being a man with regard to some time, of pastly being a man with regard to some time, of futurely being a man with regard to some time.

Past-tensed, present-tensed and future-tensed properties with regard to times are different from one another, since they do not have the same extension at one and the same time. For example, provided that t1 is the present time, the extension of the property of pastly being a man with regard to t1 differs from the extension of the property of presently being a man with regard to t1: if we accept that Socrates still is an object at t1, even if he does not exist at t1 (i.e., he does not presently exist with regard to t1), then Socrates pastly is a man with regard to t1 and it is not the case that he presently is a man with regard to t1. Yet, how can we define the present and the present time?

Let me first introduce the notion of temporal fact. A temporal fact is a fact that consists of the instantiation of some n-adic tensed property by some object(s) with regard to some time, namely a temporal fact is an event (at least given J. Kim’s definitions of events, according to which events consist of the instantiation of some n-adic property by some object(s) at some time). I assume that not every fact is a temporal fact. For example, if there are fundamental physical facts that determine the identity of times, then they are not temporal facts. Furthermore, times’ instantiating relations such as the ones of being simultaneous, preceding, and so on, are not temporal facts. The present with regard to some time t is the sum of all the temporal facts that involve t: that Mario presently is a man with regard to t, that Socrates pastly is a man with regard to t, and so on. The strict present with regard to t is the sum of all the non-redundant temporal facts that involve t and that are constituted by present-tensed properties. For example, the strict present with regard to t comprehends Mario’s presently being a man with regard to t, but it does not comprehend Socrates’ pastly being a man with regard to t. The present time is, roughly, the time involved in facts that occur now (I shall give an analysis of “now” in a few pages). There are (i.e., given my reading of quantifiers, it is legitimate to identify) times across times: we can now identify the time of the Battle of Hastings and we can claim that it is different from the present time. On the other hand, William the Conqueror, in 1066, could have identified the years 2014 and 800 as different years and different times (or different intervals of times). Furthermore, different times have different (strict and non-strict) presents, even if there is now only one present.

In order to define some basic notions of Meinongian presentism, I shall use tensed properties, i.e., properties such as the property of presently being a philosopher (with regard to some t): given a property P, it is possible to characterize a present-tensed property PPRES (and a past-tensed PPAST and a future-tensed PFUT). A property is temporal iff, for every object, it is instantiated by that object only if it is presently or pastly or futurely instantiated with regard to some time, namely

temp.prop.P(PTEMPPx(Pxt(PPASTxtPPRESxtPFUTxt)))
(where “PTEMP” stands for the property of being a temporal property). There are properties that are not temporal: for example, if we accept that there are non-temporally existing objects, the property of existing is not temporal.

On the other hand, an object is a temporal existent iff there is a time with respect to which it presently exists:

temp.ex.x(ETEMPxtEPRESxt)
(where “ETEMP stands for the property of being a temporal existent). On the other hand, an object is a sempiternal existent iff it presently exists with regard to every time:
semp.ex.x(ESEMPxtEPRESxt)
(where “ESEMP stands for the property of being a sempiternal existent). There follows that, if there are sempiternally existing objects, they are temporally existing objects too, while it is not intuitively clear whether every temporal object is sempiternal too.

Finally, I shall use “EENT as standing for the property of being an existence-entailing property, i.e., a property for which it is necessarily true that, for every object, that object instantiates that property only if it exists.

According to this perspective, eternalism should be better named “sempiternalism”, since it seems to imply that every temporal object is a sempiternal object too, namely

sempiternalismxETEMPxESEMPx
It is true that many eternalists could not intuitively accept (sempiternalism), but this thesis simply expresses the fact that there exist no objects that do not exist anymore or that do not yet exist, namely that every (past, present and future) object presently exists, even if it presently exists in some distant temporal region of our universe. 10 On the other hand, the denial of (sempiternalism) is
nonsempiternalismxETEMPxESEMPx
There are different versions of non-sempiternalism. Presentism (one of such versions) comes into two different varieties. According to actualist presentists, all the objects that have properties at some time presently exist at that time. According to non-actualist presentists, there is at least one time at which there is at least one object that does not presently exist at that time and that nevertheless instantiates some property at that time:
(presentism-actualist)~x(ETEMPxESEMPx)Pyt((PPRESzt2PPASTzt2PFUTzt2)EPRESyt)11
11
(presentism-non-actualist)~x(ETEMPx ESEMPx)&P1yt1((EENTP1& P1PRESyt1)EPRESyt1)&zP2t2((P2PRESzt2P2PASTzt2P2FUTzt2)&~EPRESzt2)
These definitions of sempiternalism and presentism are non-standard, since they are primarily grounded on the acceptance or on the denial of substantial change.

My version of Meinongian Presentism accepts (presentism-non-actualist). It is worth noticing that merely past objects (such as Socrates) not only presently (with regard to some time) instantiate properties (i.e., intentional ones), but they also have past-tensed and future-tensed properties. If we regard t2 as the present time, we might claim that Socrates pastly is with regard to t2 a philosopher and that he futurely is with regard to t2 dead (since he is now dead and there is no reason for supposing that he will resurrect) and that he futurely is with regard to t2 a philosopher or a non-philosopher (i.e., a disjunctive property). Yet, one might put a constraint on the instantiation of some future-tensed properties, depending on other views, such as the acceptance or denial of determinism.

Some Solutions

Both the actualist and the non-actualist versions of presentism can deal with the first horn of the triviality dilemma in a good way. In fact, they exclude that there are temporal existents that sempiternally exist and this assertion is not trivially true. On the other hand, concerning the second horn of the objection (the obvious falsity of presentism, given that there are objects that do not presently exist), non-actualist presentism could seem more convincing than actualist presentism: the former admits that there are objects that do not presently exist, but it denies that they presently have existence-entailing properties, and it affirms that non-presently existing objects have properties. The non-actualist, Meinongian aspect helps here, since Meinongian presentists can accept that there are objects that do not presently exist, that such objects now have properties, even without introducing untensed or disjunctive existence. On the other hand, actualist presentists must either reaffirm that there are no objects that do not presently exist, so that the second horn of the objection is left untouched, or that there is some problematic untensed or disjunctive existence.

With regard to absolute change, both actualist and non-actualist presentism can give an exhaustive interpretation of it, while sempiternalism obviously denies that there is such a phenomenon. An object has absolute beginning at some time t1 in the following case:

(ab.ben.)xt1(ABBxt1(EPRESxt1&t2(PRECt2t1EPRESxt2)))
(where “ABB” stands for the relation of absolutely beginning at some time and “PREC” stands for the relation of preceding, that obtains among times). On the other hand, an object has absolute end at some time t1 in the following case:
(ab.end.)xt1(ABBxt1(EPRESxt1&t2(FOLLt2t1EPRESxt2)))
where “ABE” stands for the relation of having an absolute end at some time and “FOLL” stands for the relation of following, that obtains among times).

Before dealing with the truth-conditions of propositions, it is worth examining the relationship between tensed instantiation at times and instantiation simpliciter of properties. In other terms, why is it justified to assert that Socrates is a man simpliciter and that Sherlock Holmes – a paradigmatic fictional, non-existing object – is not a man simpliciter, given that the property of being a man is always presently/pastly/futurely instantiated with regard to times (i.e., it is a temporal property)?

Given a temporal property, that property is instantiated simpliciter by an object iff there is some time with regard to which it is presently instantiated by that object. On the other hand, a temporal property is not instantiated simpliciter by an object iff there is no time with regard to which it is presently instantiated by that object. In fact, if there is no time with regard to which it is presently instantiated by that object, there is no preceding time with regard to which it is futurely instantiated by that object and no following time with regard to which it is pastly instantiated by that object.

Yet, this implies that, if an object presently has two incompatible temporal properties with regard to two different times, then that object instantiates simpliciter two incompatible properties. Thus, I think that there are temporal properties that cannot be instantiated simpliciter, but that can only be presently/pastly/futurely instantiated with regard to times (e.g., I cannot instantiate simpliciter the properties of staying at home and the negative property of not staying at home – or the incompatible property of staying outside – for the fact that I presently instantiate the property of staying at home with regard to some time t1 and I presently instantiate the negative property of not staying at home with regard to some different time t2, but I can only presently/pastly/futurely instantiate those properties with regard to times). On the other hand, there are temporal properties that I presently instantiate at every time at which I exist: for example, the kind-property of being human. There are also non-temporal properties – such as the property of existing, if we accept that there are non-temporally existing objects – that I presently instantiate at every time at which I exist. In this respect, I can claim that only such properties (temporal properties that I presently instantiate at every time at which I exist and non-temporal properties that I instantiate) are instantiated simpliciter by me. Yet, it is necessary to introduce a clause. In fact, given that I instantiate simpliciter the properties of being human and of existing, if we accept that there are negative properties, it is the case that, at a time at which I do not exist, I presently instantiate the negative properties of non-being human and of non-existing with regard to that time. Thus, in order to avoid contradictions, it is worth adding that such negative properties cannot be instantiated simpliciter by me.

What about propositions? Propositions can have tensed properties relative to times (e.g., the property of presently being true with regard to some time). Thus, we have to distinguish between truth at times and truth simpliciter. I shall only examine tensed propositions that aret true at times, i.e., that presently are true with regard to those times, even if they could also be pastly or futurely true with regard to other times.

For example, if we claim that the tensed proposition [Socrates ist a philosopher] ist true at t1, we claim that that proposition presently is true with regard to t1 and what makes it true at t1 is the fact that Socrates presently is a philosopher with regard to t1. On the other hand, it is the case at t1 that

  1. (5)Socrates was a philosopher,

so that [Socrates was a philosopher] ist true at t1, i.e., that proposition presently is true with regard to t1, iff Socrates pastly is a philosopher with regard to t1 (and, if Socrates ist no more a philosopher, he is not presently a philosopher with regard to t1), namely (since Socrates is defined in his identity conditions before t1) there is some t with regard to which Socrates presently is a philosopher and t precedes t1. Again, the Meinongian aspect of the theory helps: even if Socrates does not presently exist with regard to t1, he still has properties at t1, such as the property of pastly being a philosopher with regard to t1 and of presently being a philosopher with regard to t.

It ist true at t1 that [Socrates will be a philosopher], i.e., that that proposition presently is true with regard to t1, iff Socrates futurely is a philosopher with regard to t1, namely there is some t with regard to which Socrates presently is a philosopher and such that t1 precedes t. However, I am not inclined to think that such truth-conditions obtain, provided that I do not accept determinism. Finally, in order to deal with difficult cases such as [Socrates ist a philosopher]’s being now true (where “now” does not obviously refer to the time at which I am writing this paper), it is worth introducing some relations that involve properties, propositions, minded subjects and times. Such relations (that I shall call ascription relations) are part of my wider Meinongian theory of intentionality that I cannot summarize here. 12 Intuitively, whenever I think of Sherlock Holmes as being a detective within some story or of Mario as being a man, there is some kind of ascription relation that holds between me (a minded subject), Sherlock Holmes, the property of being a detective and some fictional context defined by that story – and some different kind of ascription relation that holds between me, Mario and the property of being a man. Given this perspective, the proposition [Socrates ist a philosopher] is now true iff there are some minded subject and some time, such that that subject presently thinks of that proposition with regard to that time and s/he ascribes to it at that time the property of presently being true and Socrates presently is a philosopher with regard to that time. This does not imply that the minded subject should ascribe to that proposition the property of: presently being true with regard to that time. In fact, the subject might not know the relevant time and s/he might nevertheless claim that that proposition presently is true.

I have only considered the truth at times of tensed propositions such as [Socrates was a philosopher]. However, is it possible to claim that there are tensed propositions that are true or not true simpliciter? In order to reply to this question, I suggest the following strategy. At first, it is necessary to translate tensed propositions that are true at some time into temporal propositions. A temporal proposition is a proposition that involves within its truth-conditions temporally existing objects and (more generally) objects that are temporally defined in their identity-conditions, i.e., that receive their identity conditions at some time and that have no identity conditions at other preceding times. Furthermore, temporal propositions attribute to those objects tensed properties with regard to times. For example, the tensed proposition [Socrates was a philosopher], that is true at t1 iff Socrates pastly is a philosopher with regard to t1, should be translated into the temporal proposition [Socrates pastly is a philosopher with regard to t1].

Secondly, it could be argued that temporal propositions are true simpliciter iff there is some time with regard to which they are presently true, while they are not true simpliciter iff there is no time with regard to which they are presently true. Nevertheless, it is worth remarking that this account does not exclude that there are non-temporal propositions that are not presently true at any time, even though they are true simpliciter. Such propositions could involve within their truth-conditions objects that atemporally exist (e.g., God) or, more generally, that are defined in their identity conditions independently of time.

What about non-tensed propositions claiming that an object instantiates simpliciter a property, such as [Mario is man]? Aret they only true with regard to times or are they true simpliciter too? I think that there is a sense in which they can be considered true simpliciter too, at least if we introduce the aforementioned restrictive clauses on properties that can be instantiated simpliciter and on negative properties.

Finally, let me consider the truth-conditions of our initial data at some time t1. First, I shall analyze

  1. (7)Socrates existedand
  2. (4)Socrates does not exist anymore,that are respectively true at t1 iff(7mein.pres.) EPASTsOt1and(4mein.pres.) EPASTsOt1 & ~EPRESsOt1(where “sO” is a constant standing for Socrates).With regard to
  3. (2)Socrates has ceased to exist,
  4. (6)Mario exists now,
  5. (3)Mario did not exist (before the time of his birth),
  6. (1)Mario has started to exist,

it is possible to give the following truth-conditions at t1:

(2mein.pres.) ~EPRESsOt1 & ∃t0(PRECt0t1 & EPRESsOt0)

(6mein.pres.) ∃m(APRESTPRESp1mt1 & EPRESmMt1)

(3mein.pres.) ∃t0(PRECt0t1 & ~EPRESmMt0)

(1mein.pres.) ∃tABBmMt

(where “APRES” stands for the relation of presently ascribing, holding between properties, objects, minded subjects and times, “mM” is a constant standing for Mario, “TPRES” stands for the property of presently being true, “p1” is a constant standing for the proposition [Mario presently exists]). It is worth noticing that (6) can be reinterpreted in order to make it true at t1 [I existt now] if Mario is the referent of “I”, by simply adding that Mario is the minded subject that presently ascribes to this latter proposition the property of presently being true at t1. On the other hand, [I existt now] is not true at t1 if Socrates is the referent of “I” and he does not presently exist with regard to t1. In fact, Socrates cannot presently ascribe to himself the property of presently existing with regard to t1. He does not presently exist with regard to t1, he cannot have (with regard to t1) any present-tensed n-adic existence-entailing property and the relation of presently ascribing seemingly is a present-tensed n-adic existence-entailing property (to ascribe is to think and it seems to me reasonable to maintain the truth of Descartes’ Cogito: I think, therefore I exist). Finally, it can be added that, at t1, it is true that
  1. (8)this is the present time,

if “this” refers to t1. If I presently exist with regard to t1 and if I utter (8) at t1, I cannot reasonably doubt at t1 that t1 is the present time. 13 Moreover, if [I existt now] is true at t1 and Socrates does not presently exist with regard to t1 and he pastly exists with regard to the same time, I cannot reasonably doubt at t1 about my present existence and Socrates’ merely past existence.

My version of Meinongian Presentism seems to dissolve the truthmaker problem by claiming that there are now things do not now exist and that are involved within the truth-conditions of some propositions that are true now. Thus, it does not introduce surrogates of merely past existents (see Baron (2013) for a detailed criticism of surrogates’ presentism). Furthermore, it dissolves the problem of the reference of true propositions’ constituents, by simply denying that (presentism) should be defended from an actualist perspective: [Socrates] now refers to Socrates, even though Socrates does not now exist. On the other hand, actualist presentists could not make such moves (even if they accepted tensed properties instantiated with regard to times), since they are forced to reject the idea that objects can now have properties, even if they do not now exist.

Two questions are left open: is my version of Meinongian Presentism a genuine form of presentism? Is it a serious form of presentism? Concerning the former question, one could argue that, by relativizing the reference of “now” to times, there is no absolutely present time: every time is present with regard to itself, but no time is absolutely present. Yet, I have already tried to argue that, at every time, it is true that there is only one present time: exactly that time. Thus, each time is present with regard to itself but not absolutely, even if at that time there are other, non-present and non-existing times. 14 On the other hand, if we admitted that there is only one absolutely present time (e.g., t1) and that times have identity conditions across times, a non-presentist could argue against presentism as follows. At t1, it still seems to be true that the time of the Battle of Hasting (a time t0 preceding t1) was present – and that it was the present time. Yet, what does make it true that it was present, if there is only one absolutely present time, i.e., t1? Presentists could reply that there is no time such as t0 at t1 and/or that it is not literally true at t1 (i.e., at the absolutely present time) that t0 was present. However, why should s/he make such a move?

Within my perspective, it is reasonable to maintain that, at every time, that time – and only that time – is present, i.e., that it is present with respect to itself. Moreover, for every time, not every event is part of the strict present or of the present with regard to that time (see above): if one does not accept determinism and if s/he accepts that Mario is not an object before the time of his birth (i.e., he does not have identity conditions before the time of his birth), considering a time t0 before Mario’s birth, no event involving Mario is part of the present, nor of the strict present with regard to t0.

Concerning the latter question, if we restrict serious forms of Presentism to actualist ones, my version of Meinongian Presentism cannot be obviously considered a serious form of Presentism. Yet, it still has to be demonstrated that the only serious and respectable forms of presentism are the ones that accept (actualism) (see Davidson (2003) and Inman (2012)’s reply). Moreover, as I have tried to demonstrate, this version of Meinongian Presentism can overcome some difficulties that are typically connected with actualist versions of Presentism. In sum, if you still aim at maintaining that the only serious forms of Presentism are the actualist ones, you could perhaps think of Meinongian Presentism as a more serious presentism. 15

References

  • Baron, Sam. 2013. “Talking About the Past.” Erkenntnis 78 (3):547–60.

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    • Export Citation
  • Bergmann, Michael. 1999. “(Serious) Actualism and (Serious) Presentism.” Noûs 33 (1):118–32.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Crisp, Thomas M. 2004. “On Presentism and Triviality.” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:15–20.

  • Crisp, Thomas M. 2005. “Presentism and ‘Cross-Time’ Relations.” American Philosophical Quarterly 42 (1):5–17.

  • Dainton, Barry. 2010. Time and Space. Durham, NC: Acumen.

  • Davidson, Matthew. 2003. “Presentism and the Non-Present.” Philosophical Studies 113 (1):77–92.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Hinchliff, Mark. 1988. “A Defense of Presentism.” Doctoral dissertation.

  • Hinchliff, Mark. 1996. “The Puzzle of Change.” Philosophical Perspectives 10:119–36.

  • Hinchliff, Mark. 2010. “The Identity of the Past.” In Time and Identity, edited by Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O‘Rourke & Harry Silverstein, 95–110. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Keller, Simon. 2004. “Presentism and Truthmaking.” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:83–104.

  • Inman, Ross. 2012. “Why so Serious? Non-Serious Presentism and the Problem of Cross-Temporal Relations.” Metaphysica 13 (1):55–63.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Ludlow, Peter. 2004. “Presentism, Triviality, and the Varieties of Tensism.” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:21–36.

  • Markosian, Ned. 2004. “A Defense of Presentism.” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:47–82.

  • Meyer, Ulrich. 2005. “The Presentist’s Dilemma.” Philosophical Studies 122 (3):213–25.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Orilia, Francesco. 2012. “Dynamic Events and Presentism.” Philosophical Studies 160 (3):407–14.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Orilia, Francesco. 2015. “Moderate Presentism.” Philosophical Studies. Published as Online First on June 14th, 2015.

  • Paolini, Paoletti, Michele. Forthcoming. “Paradise on the cheap. Ascriptivism about Ficta.” Meinong Studies VI: 1–41.

  • Routley, Richard. 1979. Exploring Meinong’s Jungle and Beyond: An Investigation of Noneism and the Theory of Items. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

  • Savitt, Steven. 2006. “Presentism and Eternalism in Perspective.” In The Ontology of Spacetime I, edited by Dennis Dieks, 111–27. Amsterdam and New York: Elsevier.

  • Yourgrau, Palle. 1987. “The Dead.” The Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):84–101.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Yourgrau, Palle. 2000. “Can the Dead Really Be Buried?” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 24 (1):46–68.

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    • Export Citation

Footnotes

1

Of course, eternalists could reply that substantial change can be dealt with by introducing a relativized notion of existence. Thus, (3) is made true by the fact that Mario does not exist relatively to any time before his birth and (4) is made true by the fact that Socrates does not exist relatively to any time after his death. However, this solution implies that entities do not absolutely start to exist and stop existing: it is true at every time that Mario and Socrates exist relatively to certain times, so that it is true at every time that there are such entities. If one accepts actualism (see below), this implies that – in some sense – they exist at every time. In order to avoid inconsistencies, eternalists could distinguish between two different notions of existence: the latter (existence-1 at every time) and the former (existence-2 relatively to certain times). Yet, this would conflict with the thesis that there is absolute change in the universe, i.e., that existence (all sort of existence) is gained and lost simpliciter – not just relatively to certain times. See more in note 7.

2

I shall use overscript “t” and a “u” in order to distinguish between tensed and untensed predications of verbs.

3

I shall use square brackets in order to distinguish propositions from statements expressing them. Moreover, I assume here that statements express propositions and that the constituents of true propositions refer to something in the universe. Yet, if you prefer, it is legitimate to construct an argument similar to the one that I present here by only dwelling on statements. In this case, a true statement is such that all its constituents (e.g., the grammatical proper name “Socrates”) refer to something in the universe. Yet, if Socrates has ceased to exist, “Socrates” cannot refer to Socrates. Of course, this would result in some modifications of the paraphrase strategy too (see below), since one cannot now assert that (2) expresses some proposition different from [Socrates has ceased to exist] and that such a proposition implies no reference to Socrates.

4

In this context, the truth-conditions of a proposition should not be identified with the logical expression of that proposition, but they logically express the truthmaker of that proposition.

5

One caveat is in order: “actualism” does not refer here to what we typically mean by “actualism”, i.e., modal actualism, the thesis that there is only one absolutely actual world.

6

As long as free logic asserts that our quantifiers are not existentially committing, my sketch of Meinongian Presentism is also compatible with it. Yet, the ontological thesis according to which there are things which do not exist is typically associated with Meinong’s philosophy. Moreover, free logic is a logical doctrine or set of doctrines, not an ontological one. Thus, it is more appropriate to talk of Meinongian presentism, rather than of free logic presentism.

7

In fact, as I shall clarify in a few lines, I hold that the quantifier “there are” is ontologically non-committal – its use only implies that the items over which we quantify have identity conditions.

8

Thus, what we mean by claiming that “there is now something such as Socrates” simply is that Socrates now has identity conditions; we do not mean that Socrates now has being (some sort of being different from existence), even if he does not now exist.

9

If times do not exist and can be simultaneous with one another, simultaneity should obviously not be taken as an existence-entailing relation.

10

The eternalist distinction between existence-1 (existence at every time) and existence-2 (existence relativized to certain times) that I have introduced in note 1 can be recalled here. Given my reading, being sempiternalists, eternalists claim that present existence should be attributed to objects at any time – at least if my notion of present existence is identified with existence-1. As we have seen, this does not exclude that they also have another notion of existence (existence-2) for which it is true that objects do not exist (exist-2) relatively to any time, but they only exist (exist-2) at some time. Thus, Socrates exists-1 at every time and there is some time at which he does not exist-2. Yet, what is important here is that sempiternalists have at least one notion of existence for which it is true that objects always (i.e., at every time) exist, while presentists do not have it. Some clarifications are in order. Firstly, eternalists could reply that their existence-1 is not properly existence at every time. The only sort of existence that is relative to times (to every time or to some time) is existence-2. However, if it makes sense for eternalists to claim that no object undergoes substantial change, it also makes sense to claim that every object always exist: while it is not true that Socrates exists-2 relatively to some time before the time of his birth, it is still true at that time that he exists-1: Socrates exists-1 at that time, since he does not undergo any real substantial change. If existence-2 can be used relatively to times in order to make sense of apparent substantial change, it seems legitimate to use existence-1 relatively to times in order to deny real substantial change. Yet, secondly, eternalists might argue that existence-1 is not present existence. Again: there is still a sense in which things that always exist, i.e., that do not undergo substantial change, are always present, and this sense is captured by using my notion of present existence (or present existence-1) in order to define sempiternal existence. This does not exclude that eternalists could also have another notion of present existence-2 (or present* existence) that things do not always have. In sum: presentists claim that there is no notion of existence that correctly applies to temporally existing objects at every time, while there is a notion of existence that correctly applies only to presently existing objects; sempiternalists claim that there is a sense in which temporally existing objects always exist (i.e., in my terminology, they presently exist with respect to every time), since it is always true that there are such objects and that they are such-and-such. Without this notion, it would be difficult to state the denial of real substantial change – at least from the view point of eternalists/sempiternalists.

11

The second conjunct of this definition might be accepted by eternalists, while they would not accept the first conjunct, i.e., the denial of temporally existent objects’ being sempiternally existent.

12

See Paolini Paoletti (forthcoming). Moreover, I hold that propositions are mind-dependent entities – a controversial thesis that I cannot defend here.

13

Yet, I might ignore that t1 is the year 2015. In this case, I would directly refer by “this” to t1, i.e., the year 2015, even without being aware of its being the year 2015.

14

Recall that, within my perspective, times are not collections of events, of facts or of propositions: they are objects that do not exist. Thus, when I claim that a time is present at itself, I do not claim that it exists at itself. Moreover, other times do not exist and they can nevertheless be identified at that time. I simply claim that that time has the property of being present at itself (or of presently being present with regard to itself, but the adverb “presently” would be redundant in this case), even if it does not presently exist with regard to itself, that other times do not have the property of being present with regard to that time (even if they have the property of pastly being present with regard to that time – of having been present with regard to that time – or of futurely being present with regard to it, i.e. that they will be present with regard to that time). Thus, the time of the Battle of Hastings was present with regard to our time (at our time, it is such that it was present), while some time in the year 2020 will be present with respect to our time (at our time, it is such that it will be present). No time is absolutely present – even if this thesis might not be accepted by many presentists.

15

I wish to thank Francesco Orilia and Ernesto Graziani for their useful comments and criticisms.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Baron, Sam. 2013. “Talking About the Past.” Erkenntnis 78 (3):547–60.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Bergmann, Michael. 1999. “(Serious) Actualism and (Serious) Presentism.” Noûs 33 (1):118–32.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Crisp, Thomas M. 2004. “On Presentism and Triviality.” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:15–20.

  • Crisp, Thomas M. 2005. “Presentism and ‘Cross-Time’ Relations.” American Philosophical Quarterly 42 (1):5–17.

  • Dainton, Barry. 2010. Time and Space. Durham, NC: Acumen.

  • Davidson, Matthew. 2003. “Presentism and the Non-Present.” Philosophical Studies 113 (1):77–92.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Hinchliff, Mark. 1988. “A Defense of Presentism.” Doctoral dissertation.

  • Hinchliff, Mark. 1996. “The Puzzle of Change.” Philosophical Perspectives 10:119–36.

  • Hinchliff, Mark. 2010. “The Identity of the Past.” In Time and Identity, edited by Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O‘Rourke & Harry Silverstein, 95–110. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Keller, Simon. 2004. “Presentism and Truthmaking.” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:83–104.

  • Inman, Ross. 2012. “Why so Serious? Non-Serious Presentism and the Problem of Cross-Temporal Relations.” Metaphysica 13 (1):55–63.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Ludlow, Peter. 2004. “Presentism, Triviality, and the Varieties of Tensism.” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:21–36.

  • Markosian, Ned. 2004. “A Defense of Presentism.” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:47–82.

  • Meyer, Ulrich. 2005. “The Presentist’s Dilemma.” Philosophical Studies 122 (3):213–25.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Orilia, Francesco. 2012. “Dynamic Events and Presentism.” Philosophical Studies 160 (3):407–14.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Orilia, Francesco. 2015. “Moderate Presentism.” Philosophical Studies. Published as Online First on June 14th, 2015.

  • Paolini, Paoletti, Michele. Forthcoming. “Paradise on the cheap. Ascriptivism about Ficta.” Meinong Studies VI: 1–41.

  • Routley, Richard. 1979. Exploring Meinong’s Jungle and Beyond: An Investigation of Noneism and the Theory of Items. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

  • Savitt, Steven. 2006. “Presentism and Eternalism in Perspective.” In The Ontology of Spacetime I, edited by Dennis Dieks, 111–27. Amsterdam and New York: Elsevier.

  • Yourgrau, Palle. 1987. “The Dead.” The Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):84–101.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Yourgrau, Palle. 2000. “Can the Dead Really Be Buried?” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 24 (1):46–68.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
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