Thursday, February 7, 2013

Presentism and vagueness

I've been playing with thoughts of the following sort. It can be vague whether something—say, a pain, an itch or a blueberry bush—is still in existence. If presentism is true, then cases where it's vague whether something is still in existence are cases where it's vague whether something exists. Thus it's somewhat harder for the presentist to avoid vagueness about existence than for the non-presentist. If one thinks that there is no vagueness about existence, this will be a problem for presentism.


Jonathan D. Jacobs said...

For a while now I've thought that what presentists should say is that while it is true that, say, there were dinosaurs, this is not a fundamental truth. It's true, but not fundamentally so. If that move is open, then the following move is open in response to the vagueness worry: It's not vague whether anything exists, it's only vague which proposition, the fundamental one or the non-fundamental one, is true (or perhaps which one we're expressing).

Say 'exists' when speaking non-fundamentally, and '*exists*', fundamentally. Then it's not vague whether the pain exists, and it's not vague whether it exists. It's vague whether the pain exists or *exists*. (Or, it's vague whether "the pain exists" expresses or .)

There's lots of ways this could go, but the basic move, if plausible, seems to reply well to your worry.

Jonathan D. Jacobs said...

Shoot. The second 'exist' in the second sentence of the second paragraph should be '*exist*'. And it took out the proposition markers in the parenthetic. The either or should be "either \the pain exists\ or \the pain *exists*\".

Alexander R Pruss said...

Clever! I am strongly inclined to say that there is no vagueness in respect of anything fundamental, though.