Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Waiting

I wonder if B-theorists (either endurantists or perdurantists) can make sense of waiting for an inevitable future event or time?

12 comments:

Ima said...

Part 3 of Oaklander and Smith's (eds.) "New Theory of Time" (1994) contains a number of responses and defenses to this "Thank Goodness That's Over"-kind of argument.

Doug said...

I'm wondering how much of an effect this would have on libertarian free will. I'm inclined to think that the inevitability of some event in the future doesn't undermine one's freedom. It could have been the case that some subject S would have chosen some action A differently, in such a way that the "inevitable" simply would have been different. In any case, an A-theory of time is most intuitive.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I actually find the A-theory counterintuitive. :-) Or, more precisely, I find counterintuitive its three major forms: moving spotlight, growing block and presentism.

Jason Zarri said...

Hi,

I don't think so. A while ago I argued in a blog post that if eternalism is true it makes no sense to anticipate future events. Basically, it hinges on the idea that any temporal slice of you which experiences the event is distinct from the temporal slice of you which anticipates the event; and it makes no sense to anticipate being identical to something which is distinct from you. I also argued that it only makes sense to anticipate the future if it also makes sense to posticipate the past. You can read it here if you're interested:

http://philosophicalpontifications.blogspot.com/2007/05/reflections-on-eternalism-part-1.html

Jason Zarri said...

Oops, it looks like my link got cut off. Here it is in two parts:

http://philosophicalpontifications.blogspot.com

/2007/05/reflections-on-eternalism-part-1.html

Alexander R Pruss said...

How about analyzing expectant waiting at t1 for E at t2 as a kind of wish that E (or an E-type event) had already started at t1, or would start shortly after t1? (Waiting with dread is more complex.)

On reflection, while A-theory feels like it does better justice to the phenomenology of waiting, I think waiting is somewhat puzzling on the A-theory, too. Take the moving spotlight variant. Why should one care about the fact that E isn't lit up yet? Next, take the presentist or moving block variants. Then, one might care about a future E not yet being existent. But why should one feel differently towards E than towards a non-actual event that will never happen happen (e.g., Napoleon's victory at Waterloo), since both are equally non-existent?

Doug said...

"But why should one feel differently towards E than towards a non-actual event that will never happen . . . ?"

I suppose if we take some contingent future event E, then ~E is also contingently instantiated. If this is the case, then both E and ~E are possibly instantiated future events. The "waiting" in that scenario would just entail some perception that E is or is not instantiated. However, my knowledge of philosophy of time is quite limited. Perhaps an A-theory is more counter-intuitive... :)

Drew Mazanec said...

Just curious.

Is divine timelessness compatible with the A theory, or only the B theory?

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/immutability/

Alexander R Pruss said...

I've wondered about whether it is possible to have a timeless being if the A-theory is right. Suppose that you're timeless, and I'm in time. Then you undergo Cambridge-change, as I come to think of you--you change from not being thought about by ARP to being thought about by ARP. So let's look at that from your point of view. You can ask yourself: "Is ARP thinking of me?" Well, if you're timeless and I'm in time, there seems to be no good answer to the question. If the B-theory is true, we can say that the question is incomplete, because the timeless being should ask: "Is ARP thinking of me at t?" But if the A-theory is true, I am not sure such a reformulation is satisfactory. Maybe it is, though.

Drew Mazanec said...

Thanks for the clarification. One other question: Would the B-theory of time do anything to undermine the Kalam Cosmological Argument, particularly William Lane Craig's version?

Drew Mazanec said...

I also wonder how this affects the doctrine of the incarnation.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't know that the B-theory affects the arguments against an infinite past. But then I find most of the arguments implausible.

As for the Incarnation, there may be a problem with the conjunction of A-theory, divine timelessness and Incarnation. So it may be that Christians who believe--as I think they should--in divine timelessness should deny the A-theory.