An assessment of presentism
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There is a debate in the philosophy of time over the status of non-present entities. Do these things exist, and if so, what sorts of things are they? Recently, the debate has split into two groups, presentists and eternalists. Presentists hold that no past or future things exist now. Socrates does not now exist, though he did in the past; my future daughter does not now exist, though she may in the future. Ontologically, the present is distinct, serving to demarcate all that currently has existence. As far as the eternalist is concerned, all entities - whether past, present, or future - are equally real. If it was, is, or will be, it can be found in the eternalist picture of time. As such, there is no distinct present at which some entities exist while others do not; rather, everything enjoys the same ontological status. I will be concerned to offer an assessment of the presentist view. Common objections against presentism will be examined, amplified, and answered where appropriate. I will not examine the arguments in favor of the presentist view. Rather, I wish to describe why it is that the eternalist feels compelled to deny presentism. Ultimately, my goal will be to show that although presentism survives some of the current objections raised against it, it does not survive them all. Presentism is an interesting, but ultimately unsatisfactory view. There is a modified form of presentism (call it presentism*) that can meet the objections raised against the original position, and after noting some of the objections raised against presentism, I will sketch the outlines of presentism* in some detail. I intend to show that presentism* is able to retain what is most valuable about presentism, while also withstanding certain objections that the latter view could not.
McDaniel, Brannon David (2003). An assessment of presentism. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from